Model Recounts Horrifying Experience Being Swept Up by the Waves

Model Petra Nemcova says she still talks to boyfriend Simon Atlee -- months after the Indian Ocean tsunami nearly killed her and swept away the British photographer.

"I talk to Simon, I write to him," Nemcova told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in a special episode of "Primetime Live."

"I never used to write a diary. But now I'm writing a diary to him," she said. "I think it's not just me, but lots of others, family and friends, can still feel him around."

Nemcova, 25, and Atlee, 33, were in the Thai resort of Khao Lak on Dec. 26 when one of the deadliest tsunamis in modern history hit. Areas of Asia and Africa were flooded, and more than 200,000 people are believed to have died in the disaster.

Nemcova suffered a shattered pelvis and internal injuries. Atlee was missing and presumed dead for more than three months, until his body was found and formally identified on March 3.

The Czech beauty told Sawyer she thinks of Atlee daily. "His favorite saying was, 'The day without laughter is a day wasted,' " she said. "He was so kind and so respectful for people. He loved people. He loved life."

'The Last Time I Saw Him'

Nemcova said she still has nightmares about the experience: "Just water rolling and rolling, and when you close your eyes, just water."

She recounted for Sawyer the series of events that began with her boyfriend at her side, and ended with her clinging to a palm tree for dear life for nearly eight hours.

She and Atlee were in their bungalow when the first wave hit. People were running away and screaming, she said. "It was just so … surrealistic." Then the water flooded their bungalow and pulled them outside in seconds. "Simon was just saying, 'Petra, Petra, what's going on?' " she said.

Nemcova was swept into a current of debris. "In that moment, the power of the water was bringing all the fallen trees, all the broken buildings and all the wood. It was such a strong current, you couldn't do anything. You just had to go with it," she said.

The model didn't know that after that moment, she would never see the love of her life again. "He again screamed, 'Petra, Petra,' " Nemcova said. "It's the last time I saw him."

Tree of Life

Nemcova soon realized her pelvis was broken, which disabled her legs and left her with only the use of her arms.

She said she felt her bones break many times. "I was just screaming from the top of my lungs. [The] power of the water … my left hip, it was pushing it and breaking it and breaking it and breaking it," she said.

She almost drowned. "You just start [to] swallow the black water … for one time, second time, and then it's actually … it was quite peaceful in that moment, because I thought, 'That's it. All right,' " she said. "It was just … very, very peaceful in a strange way."

But then she got her head above water. She remembers how happy she was to see the blue sky again.

She moved toward a partially submerged palm tree and clung to it. She watched people sweeping by her, many of them children. They were calling for help, but she could do nothing.

"I couldn't move my legs, I couldn't do anything. I wish I could so help," she said. "After half an hour, you didn't hear the children anymore. You didn't hear some of the people anymore."

Then the water levels began to drop, but that also increased her pain, because the water had been bracing her broken pelvis. She struggled to find support for her lower body in the trees branches, and thinks she fell asleep or passed out twice.

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