January 3, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tuvalu: Scuba: Crime: Personal Web Site: Brother of Tuvalu RPCV Tom Lonergan learns Tom and Eileen are missing in Australia in 1998

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tuvalu: Special Report: The loss of Tuvalu RPCVs Tom and Eileen Lonergan: January 3, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tuvalu: Scuba: Crime: Personal Web Site: Brother of Tuvalu RPCV Tom Lonergan learns Tom and Eileen are missing in Australia in 1998

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-239-147.balt.east.verizon.net - on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 6:02 pm: Edit Post

Brother of Tuvalu RPCV Tom Lonergan learns Tom and Eileen are missing in Australia in 1998

Brother of Tuvalu RPCV Tom Lonergan learns Tom and Eileen are missing in Australia in 1998

i remember the night of january 27, 1998 very clearly. i was helping a friend fix a computer problem at her house that evening, in exchange for dinner. In the midst of debugging, my cell phone rang.

my mom's voice on the far end was unmistakably shaken.

"john, eileen and tom are missing in australia. we don't know any details yet, but we'll let you know as soon as we find out anything."

"what do you mean?" i asked, not comprehending.

"eileen and tom went diving, and no one knows where they are. the dive boat isn't sure if they came in with them or not. They may have left them on the reef."

i felt my knees weaken, and my whole body went numb, the way i imagine everyone's does when they receive tragic news.

"okay. call me as soon as you know more." i hung up the phone and looked at it.

the next week and a half were spent in constant conversation with australian authorities and witnesses, hoping beyond hope that eileen and tom would be found, that they had somehow managed to swim to the pontoon on the nearby reef, even though the coast guard said it was next to impossible in the current.

inevitably, we surrendered to the only logical conclusion: that the odds were stacked too highly against them, and they succumbed to the ocean.

as the search closed down, the press started to ask questions about eileen and tom, the questions you would expect about recently deceased: what kind of people were they, what hobbies did they have, etc. we shared memories of eileen and tom freely with the media, believing their interest to be more than just cursory.

then the questions about the diaries came. the reporters grilled us as though we had been party to the writing of the diaries and the personal thoughts of eileen and tom at the time they had them.

“was tom suicidal? was eileen afraid he would kill her?” the questions were as unrefined as they were ridiculous.

when i was 19 years old, and at a very difficult time in my life, eileen and tom welcomed me into their home, on kirkland air force base in new mexico. they helped me get back on my feet, without catering to my whims, they guided me on the path to the success i currently enjoy. both tom and eileen were gracious and accommodating. i cannot say that i would be so willing to allow my wife’s brother into our home under the same circumstances. but to tom and eileen, it was why they were there.

this attitude was further demonstrated when they joined the peace corps. tom and eileen donated and dedicated three years of their lives to educate and care for people on tiny islands with limited power and resources, leaving behind the amenities and necessities even the poorest americans enjoy today.

after 3 years of service in the peace corps, tom and eileen made plans to return to louisiana to visit their families, and discuss the future. eileen mentioned in a letter to me that they were considering going back to college in hawaii. i was thinking i should move in with them again. eileen said that before they returned home, they were going to take a well-deserved vacation to get some time for themselves.

eileen and tom shared a love for diving. they would dive every opportunity they had. both were very experienced, and had plans to hit all the major dive spots in the world, and the great barrier reef was the next spot on the list for them.

“did eileen and tom have a suicide pact?” asks another reporter.

tom and eileen were at a point in their lives that most people don’t reach until they are 65. they weren’t wealthy, but they didn’t want or need more than scuba gear and a place to sleep. they could have settled down in hawaii and spent the next 30 years working just enough to support their diving, and been happier than some millionaires i’ve met. to eileen and tom, their life was just beginning, their plans were coming to fruition.

to suggest that tom was physically a danger to eileen, or that eileen was afraid that tom was planning to kill her is not just ignorant, but bordering on insanity. worse, the suggestion that tom and eileen were somehow involved in planning their own tragic deaths, or faking them, is totally irrelevant to the facts of the situation.

pay close attention to the following information:

1. eileen and tom were on a boat with 26 other divers and 5 crew members.

2. there were three dives that day.

3. logs entries were made for the first two dives, but not the third.

4. all on board acknowledge that no head count was done after the third dive.

5. the boat left the dive site early to hit land in time for a party.

6. no one noticed that eileen and tom’s shoes were still on the boat.

7. no one noticed that eileen and tom’s personal effects were still at the dive company headquarters.

8. the bus driver who was scheduled to pick up eileen and tom was told they must have already left.

9. the company realized their error after two rental tanks were unaccounted for.

10. the police weren’t notified until 48 hours after the dive ended.

for eileen and tom to plan the preceding events, for those events to transpire with the agreement of all involved, and for the dive company to take the fall to cover for either a murder-suicide or a faked death is not just improbable, but with human nature, impossible. try asking jack nairn if he was okay with losing his company and life savings because he covered up for eileen and tom so they could disappear and change their names. see if he really thinks it’s a likely possibility.

just to clarify, in case anyone who reads this has issues with interpretation, in no way, shape or form, does anyone in eileen and tom’s families believe that they staged this event for either the purpose of intentional death or to stage death for personal gain. tragically, both are dead, due to the abject failure of the captain and crew of the outer edge to follow set scuba dive processes that insure the safety of divers. anyone who thinks otherwise should have their head examined.

“what about the diaries?” asks yet another media member.

what about them? what relevance do the diaries have to outer edge dive company’s ability to follow safety regulations? the answer, clear as crystal, is none. however, a paranoid dive industry fearing the worst, implemented a defense strategy typical of any court system: discredit the victims. i personally feel that the attack had little impact on the outcome. to try to pin total responsibility on jack nairn was foolish, in my limited opinion. the responsibility was not exclusively his, and certainly could not be proven so in court.

in spite of heavy lobbying, the department of heath and safety implemented significant changes to the industry regulations. the real victory was for eileen and tom, were the changes made to the queensland dive industry safety rules, monitoring and punishments.

rather than focusing on the tragedy of their deaths, it would be better to remember thomas and eileen lonergan not only as people who devoted themselves to making the world a better place for others, but as two divers who lived, and died, doing what they loved, in the company of the ones they loved.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tuvalu; Scuba; Crime



By Laura Ganey (d14-69-154-23.try.wideopenwest.com - on Saturday, January 08, 2005 - 3:10 am: Edit Post

Is there anyway that I could read the diaries?

By Sam N. (cpe-65-25-115-231.neo.res.rr.com - on Sunday, April 10, 2005 - 4:45 am: Edit Post

Truly a horribly tragedy.. How could anyone be so cruel? Did the owner have a grudge against them, or Americans in general? I don't know who could answer my questions but I have so many concerning this matter, it grabs me morally and shrieks its dreadful fingernail across a chalkboard.

By Munchkin (cpe-67-10-181-193.houston.res.rr.com - on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - 3:33 am: Edit Post

Oh, and in response to Laura Ganey, do you really want to read the Lonergan's private thoughts and feelings? It was wrong to present them to the public in the first place and even more wrong to want to read them.

By Munchkin (cpe-67-10-181-193.houston.res.rr.com - on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - 3:24 am: Edit Post

I seriously doubt that Jack Nairns or any other Aussie had anything personal against Tom or Eileen or Americans in general. It was a tragic accident, albeit preventable, but still an accident. Yes, I believe that the responsible parties should answer for their negligence, but to suggest that the owner had a grudge against Americans is ludicrous. Think about it! The Aussies are people just like we are (Americans) and they value human life every bit as much as anyone else. I've never met an Aussie that wasn't warm and friendly (except my fiance's ex-girlfriend, lol). Do you really believe that they would do something like this because you believe that they don't like Americans??? If so, you need to take a look in the mirror because I'm quite sure that that thought never entered their minds and I'm worried that it would enter yours! Even Eileen's parents said it was an accident and felt no animosity toward them. Mr. Nairns I'm sure, felt just as badly about this as most anyone would. The crew became complacent but there is nothing that suggest in any way that they left them behind on purpose or didn't care. You are judging those you obviously know nothing about and that in itself makes this even more tragic.

By Dave Lawrence (cpe-66-91-61-78.hawaii.res.rr.com - on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 4:00 pm: Edit Post

Stop defending the Aussies... "The Aussies are people just like we are (Americans) "...
So are the Saudis but they still teach their kids in state-provided text books to hate and be prejudiced. You can't say anyone is people like anyone else and think that makes a statement. We Americans are people and did that f-ing Abu Ghraib prison crap, too. Someones nationality or background buys them very little credibility.
That crew and captain involved in the loss of these two divers should pay for it as those who break the law do. It has nothing to do with what country they are from. Leaving behind two people 40 miles offshore is outrageous. There should be a series of head-counts and redundancies to verify a passenger manifest is accurate. There is no excuse; calling it an accident doesn't take away their responsibility, and the national background of those involved, if anything, backs up the opinion that these people from a major company, doing major tourism activities in a supposedly free country (one of the big ones on earth), should be more responsible, and face the music. If this happened in the US, they'd pay heavily for it, and in this case just as much so.
It is a shocking, horrible story that the mind never gets used to...
I send good vibes to Tom and Eileen. Many people the world over feel for them and are with them in terms of energy and spirit.


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