Leo Sayer opens up on how his wife saved his life after near-death experience

20 July 2023, 14:23

Leo Sayer has opened up on how a snorkelling holiday turned into a near-death experience, if it wasn't for the heroics of his wife Donatella.
Leo Sayer has opened up on how a snorkelling holiday turned into a near-death experience, if it wasn't for the heroics of his wife Donatella. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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Leo Sayer has revealed how he had his wife to thank after a terrifying experience at sea.

Pop legend Leo Sayer and Donatella Piccinetti have been together for over 40 years, and Leo has recently opened up about Donatella's heroics.

The 1970s pop phenomenon met his now-wife Donatella in 1984 when she was working as a waitress in an Italian restaurant.

He had recently divorced his first wife Janice, and he was immediately attracted to Donatella, confessing it was love at first sight.

The following year after they'd met, the loved-up couple were holidaying abroad and decided to try out snorkelling.

In a recent interview with The Mirror, Sayer revealed that it turned into a horrifying near-death experience, with Donatella's heroics saving him from drowning.

Leo Sayer and wife (then girlfriend) Donatella in 2007. (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)
Leo Sayer and wife (then girlfriend) Donatella in 2007. (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Leo admitted: "I've never been able to swim and I’ve always been scared of water, so I had my flippers and snorkel and even baby water wings."

"We never did more than twenty minutes, but that morning I looked up and the island was tiny – we’d drifted out so far."

"I lost it and went down about seven times. Donna fished me out and kicked me off, because I was hanging on to her."

"She’s a good swimmer and she managed to get us back to shore – but it took an hour", he confessed.

Thanks to his wife's quick thinking and strong swimming, Leo lived to tell the tale. But it's not the first time he's had a brush with life-threatening danger.

When the 'You Make Me Feeling Like Dancing' singer was working as a hotel porter in Hove, East Sussex in 1967, he himself rescued eight guests from a blaze.

Leo Sayer - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing [Official Video]

He recalls: "The whole hotel caught light. I was summoned by the manager to get people out. I took the lift up and I found some people and pulled them in and brought them down."

"Something compelled me to go back up again and this time it was really bad. The lift buckled and crashed to the ground just as I got out of it."

"I ended up going up the central stair column. They say that I saved about eight people but I also saw a lot of people die."

The blaze claimed five lives at the time, though it could've been more if it weren't for Leo's (then going by his real name Gerard) bravery.

Having befriended a couple staying in The King's Hotel, he still regrets not being able to save them as he "watched them die in each other’s arms".

"When the fire broke out, I got them together into an upper bedroom where I thought it would be safe. I put them on the bed but, at that moment, the door burnt through and the fire took hold."

"I smashed a chair through the window. They were telling me to go and leave them there. "One of my biggest regrets is that I did leave them."

"I don’t think I would have had the strength to drag them with me. I climbed out of the window and a fire ladder from the truck came round and scooped me out. I was saved, but they weren't."

Leo Sayer in 1975. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
Leo Sayer in 1975. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns). Picture: Getty

Leo was still branded a hero in the local press however, but after his close call snorkelling on holiday, it was Donatella's turn to be the hero.

Though, after she saved his life, that didn't encourage him to make any rash decisions and propose to her on the spot.

Instead, it took the couple a further 37 years and two months to become husband and wife, when they married in an intimate ceremony at their home in Australia in April 2023.

"We got to a point in our lives where we were happy, really settled, we had some money coming in and security, so we turned round to each other and said: 'let’s do it'.

"I think at 75 and 65 you’re realising you’re not going to go anywhere else in life. I’ll keep travelling and working until I’m at least 80 or 85 – but it’s nice to know where home is. And home is not just a place, it’s the person you’re with."

He's certainly found a life partner in his beloved wife Donatella, and a life-saver - quite literally.

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