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SI model survives tsunami

Nemcova in hospital with injuries; boyfriend still missing

Posted: Tuesday December 28, 2004 2:11PM; Updated: Tuesday December 28, 2004 7:08PM
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Petra Nemcova appeared on the 2003 SI swimsuit cover.

NEW YORK (SI.com) -- Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model Petra Nemcova was injured and her photographer boyfriend is missing after the pair were caught up in the Asian tsunami disaster.

Nemcova told the New York Daily News that she survived the tsunami, which has killed at least 33,000 people, by clinging to a palm tree for eight hours, despite a broken pelvis and internal injuries.

Rescuers in Phuket, Thailand, took her via stretcher to a local hospital. She was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Hat Yai, 150 miles southeast of Phuket.

"I was so broken, I couldn't walk," Nemcova told the Daily News. "There were so many people with horrible injuries, with blood everywhere. It was like a war movie.

"There might be pieces of bone stuck to my organs."

Nemcova's publicist, Rob Shuter, told the New York Post that his client is "very lucky to be alive."

Nemcova, who appeared on the 2003 SI swimsuit cover, and her boyfriend, British photographer Simon Atlee, had been vacationing in Phuket when the waves swept over them Sunday.

"I can't find Simon," Nemcova told the Daily News. "It was horrible. I'm very lucky, but I can't find Simon."

Atlee's agent, Eve Stoner, said British authorities had no information on Atlee's fate.

"We are just very hopeful," Stoner said. "As time goes on we are getting quite frantic and stressed about it. Our thoughts are really with Petra and Simon's family at the moment."

In addition to her SI cover and fashion spreads, the Czech-born Nemcova, 25, has appeared in magazines such as Marie Claire and Vogue, and also has modeled for Victoria's Secret.

Atlee, 33, is a well-known fashion photographer who recently shot the pictures for Nemcova's 2005 calendar.

Nemcova told the Daily News that a huge wave pulled her and Atlee from the bungalow they were staying in at Phuket.

"It was so powerful I couldn't get up. I couldn't get out of it," Nemcova told the Daily News from her hospital bed in Thailand.

"People and kids were screaming all over the place, 'Help, help.' And after a few minutes, you didn't hear the kids anymore."

Fashion designer Jamison Ernest told the Post that Nemcova and Atlee had been dating for two years. Ernest spent 15 hours trying trying to locate Nemcova before finally reaching her.

"She sounded beat-up," Ernest told the newspaper. "She was in terrible pain and obviously very distressed.

"She said she doesn't know what happened to Simon. She started crying when she mentioned his name."

Family and friends have been calling hospitals in Thailand in hopes of finding information about Atlee.

"I have spoken to his sister in England and his family is just frantic," Ernest told the Post. "They have heard nothing and they are going out of their minds with worry.

"Simon is a lovely guy, and we are just hoping and praying for the best."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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