This Couple Was Left Behind For 2 Days In The Sea | Shocking Last Words On A Diving Slate!

This Couple Was Left Behind For 2 Days In The Sea | Shocking Last Words On A Diving Slate!

The story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan‘s disappearance at sea haunts everyone who hears it. This couple’s journey into the Coral reef turned from an adventure into a nightmare. On 25 January 1998, Tom and Eileen were unintentionally left alone in the Coral Sea off Australia’s northeast coast. Surprisingly, the boat crew could not note their absences until two days later. Despite many rescue efforts, they were not found. However, some of their belongings with their haunting last words as a cry for help were found. Let’s take a look into the details of how the Lonergans were abandoned, leading to their presumed deaths. 

The Fateful Journey Begins

Tom and Eileen Lonergan were a married American couple who embarked on a journey that would be their last. At the time, Tom Lonergan was 33 and Eileen was 28 years old. The two of them were often defined as “young, idealistic, and in love with each other,” by othersAfter serving in the Peace Corps in Fiji, they decided to explore the Great Barrier Reef. It is the world’s largest coral reef system. 

Tom and Eileen left Port Douglas, in Australia by boat along with a group of around 24 people. They were off to St. Crispin’s Reef, which is a popular dive site in the Great Barrier Reef. But something went wrong on the trip. 

Couple Left Behind For 2 Days In The Sea
Image source: All that’s interesting

Abandoned In The Sea!

The fact that Lonergans were left behind is as shocking as it is tragic. The boat’s skipper, Geoffrey Nairn guided all 26 on the boat towards their destination 25 miles off the coast of Queensland. With other passengers, Tom and Eileen also got into the water with their diving gear. Usual sessions run for about 40 minutes, and the others were convinced that they got back on the boat. But none of them knew for sure. 

It wasn’t until two days after their dive that their absence was noticed. Their bag containing personal items was left on the boat. The rescue teams quickly began their operations. The rescue team members then discovered diving gear that belonged to Tom and Eileen. But the most haunting piece of evidence was a dive slate with their last words!

Couple Left Behind For 2 Days In The Sea
Image source: Brisbane times

Last Words Of The Couple!

It was a desperate plea for help, showcasing their isolation and the grave situation they found themselves in.

“To anyone who can help us: We have been abandoned on Agin Court Reef Reef 25 Jan 1998 03 pm. Please help us come to rescue us before we die. Help!!!”

Tragically, Tom and Eileen’s bodies were never located.

Couple Left Behind For 2 Days In The Sea
Image source: Wikipedia / Stranded Deep (The image on the right is the dive slate rescuers found with the couple’s writing)

Did The Couple Arrange Their Own Death? 

Speculations came to light following their disappearance. Some said that they staged their own death. More people even went on to say that perhaps it was suicide. These speculations were rooted in the discovery of Tom and Eileen’s journals. They included some troubling entries that started a fire. 

Tom seemed to have struggled with his mental health. Eileen’s writing had mentioned her concerns regarding Tom’s wish for death. Two weeks before their fatal trip, he mentioned his desire for a “quick and peaceful death.” 

“Tom’s not suicidal, but he’s got a death wish that could lead him to what he desires and I could get caught in that.”

Eileen Lonergan
Couple Left Behind For 2 Days In The Sea
Image source: The Cairns Post (The place where they dived with 24 others)

Any Actions For the Diving Crew?

A court case was held and the coroner Noel Nunan charged the skipper of the boat with wrongful killing. 

“Skippers should be vigilant for the safety of passengers and ensure safety measures are carried out. When you combine the number of mistakes and the severity of the mistakes I am satisfied a reasonable jury would find Mr. Nairn guilty of manslaughter on criminal evidence.”

The coroner Noel Nunan 

However, Nairn, the skipper was declared ‘not guilty.’ The company had to pay a fine for negligence. They eventually went out of business as the word spread. Tom And Eileen Lonergan’s case ensured more rigid regulations regarding the safety of the divers. It also prompted to inclusion of a proper headcount along with identification measures.


The Lonergans’ story is a powerful reminder of the need for safety in adventure sports, respect for nature’s vastness, and the human spirit’s resilience. It urges us to remember Tom and Eileen not just for their tragic end but for their adventurous spirits. For enthusiasts like Alex Rivera and others who hold a deep fascination with the natural world and its mysteries, their story serves as a cautionary tale and a call to action for better protection of both adventurers and the delicate ecosystems they explore.

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