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Tsunami Tragedy Awash

WWW- Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova is reliving her tsunami nightmare after learning that her boyfriend’s body has finally been recovered in Thailand.

“She was devastated,” a friend of Nemcova’s told the Daily News yesterday. “For all this talk about closure and finding the body being good, none of that was true. She was devastated.”

The body of Simon Atlee, 33, was identified Friday by forensic experts and will be flown back to England for burial, his family said.

Atlee’s sister, Jodi Hansard, broke the news to Nemcova early Saturday as the model returned to her family home after visiting Prague with a friend.

“We’re very relieved that he’s been found, and we’re very grateful for all the hard work that people have done to help find him,” Hansard told The News yesterday from her London home. “We’d really appreciate being left alone now to mourn him privately.”

Nemcova, 25, a former Sports Illustrated cover model, has been looking to Atlee’s memory for strength and inspiration as she recuperates at her family’s home in the Czech Republic.

“I’ve been given a second chance, and now I’m living for two people,” she told a television interviewer in Prague last month.

The high-flying supermodel had surprised her fashion-photographer boyfriend with a vacation at a secluded resort in Khao Lak, Thailand, when the Dec. 26 tsunami ripped their beachfront bungalow apart.

Atlee was swept away by the wall of water, while an injured Nemcova survived only by clinging to the top of a palm tree for eight painful hours.

When she spoke to The News from her Thai hospital bed the next day, her first concern was the man she had loved for two years.

“I can’t find Simon. It was horrible. I’m very lucky, but I can’t find Simon,” she said. “This huge wave just pulled us out of the house. It was so powerful I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t get out of it.”

Nemcova, who lived in Manhattan until her brush with death, is now walking with crutches and performing physical therapy at a rehabilitation spa in her hometown.

But she may never model again, except to raise money for charities to help tsunami victims. And the confirmation of Atlee’s death may set back her own recovery, her friend fears.

“If there’s no body, there’s always a little glimmer of hope, no matter how unrealistic it is,” the friend said. “This news is final, and so complete. This moment, this second, she’s devastated.”


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