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Friday, July 12, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`I Treasure Life A Lot More' -- Bellevue Woman Works Toward Recovery After 17-Hour Ordeal At Sea

Just two days after her release from a Greek hospital, Simone Scialdo stepped back into the Adriatic Sea - where for 17 hours she'd floated helplessly after falling off a ferry.

Those steps into the warm, clear water are part of her emotional recovery from a June 19 ordeal that claimed the life of a new friend. Recovery, for the 21-year-old Bellevue woman, means getting on with living.

"I can't snap my fingers and get rid of it," Scialdo said of her experience, adding that she still has flashbacks, including the roller-coaster-drop feeling in her gut when she recalls the 40-foot fall from the Italian ferry Espresso Venezia.

"It will always be there," she said.

A senior business major at Washington State University, Scialdo said she is confronting her emotions head-on. She has cried, she's talked with the parents of her friend who died and she speaks openly with those close to her about how she feels.

"I'm not holding anything back," she said.

Most of all, she said, "you have to move on."

"You can't let an experience like that bring you to a downfall," said Scialdo, who returned to the Seattle area Tuesday night and has been spending time with her mother.

Scialdo, who credits her survival to her will to live, said she hopes to return to her job at an espresso bar at the Bellevue Athletic Club. But in the meantime, she wants to rest.

"We're going to rent movies all day and relax and eat popcorn," she said.

Scialdo was treated at a Greek hospital for an irregular heartbeat, fever, sunburn and chipped teeth she suffered in her accident. She returned to the United States July 2 and spent a week with her father in Virginia.

Scialdo had been in Italy with an exchange program and was with friends sailing from Brindisi, Italy, to Corfu, Greece, when the accident occurred.

Before the ferry left Italy, Scialdo met Larry Welborn, a 22-year-old Austin, Texas, man. About three hours into the boat ride, he jokingly lifted her up and tried to put her on the ship's railing. She slipped, and when he tried to grab her, Scialdo pulled Welborn with her.

No one saw them fall and the ferry sailed off, leaving them stranded in the Adriatic.

The pair decided to try to swim to an island they saw in the distance. When they realized it was too far, they decided to float and tread water to save energy.

The two talked to each other and took turns half-napping. After about six hours, Scialdo awoke from a brief nap and when she yelled for Welborn, he wasn't there.

She was saved when a Austrian yacht happened by. Welborn, whose body has not been found, is presumed drowned.

Scialdo said surviving the ordeal has given her a new view on life.

"I treasure life a lot more," she said. "I enjoy the little things."

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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