October 3, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tuvalu: Scuba: Movies: Crime: The Age: The Age in Australia weighs in on the Lonergans

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tuvalu: Special Report: The loss of Tuvalu RPCVs Tom and Eileen Lonergan: October 3, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tuvalu: Scuba: Movies: Crime: The Age: The Age in Australia weighs in on the Lonergans

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-9-111.balt.east.verizon.net - on Saturday, October 09, 2004 - 12:25 am: Edit Post

The Age in Australia weighs in on the Lonergans

The Age in Australia weighs in on the Lonergans

The Age in Australia weighs in on the Lonergans

The true story behind Open Water


On January 25, 1998, Tom and Eileen Lonergan set out on a diving cruise to Crispin Reef, 90 kilometres north-east of Cairns.

It was meant to be a one-day trip but the Lonergans never made it back to shore.

Just how the couple from Louisiana came to be left behind in shark-infested waters is unclear.

They and everyone else made three dives on the day, and by 3pm The Outer Edge was ready to head back to Port Douglas.

The crew counted heads, and came up with 26 passengers. But the tally was wrong: there were only 24 on board.

By the time 34-year-old Tom Lonergan and his 28-year-old wife surfaced from their final dive, The Outer Edge was long gone.

Incredibly, it took 51 hours before the skipper of The Outer Edge notified authorities and the search began.

The Lonergans’ chances of survival were slender from the outset. Fishermen in the area reported dozens of tiger sharks circling the reef that day.

Had they managed to evade the sharks, dehydration, cold and exhaustion would soon have taken their toll.

In the months that followed their disappearance, and in the absence of any trace of their bodies, multiple theories surfaced to explain the Lonergans’ fate.

Journals found at the couple’s hostel room in Cairns sparked suspicions of suicide, or even murder.

Tom, wracked by depression, had written, "I feel as though my life is complete and I’m ready to die’’.

Only 16 days before the couple’s disappearance, Eileen wrote: "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.’’

The more far-fetched speculation included the bizarre claim that the couple had in fact been assassinated by the CIA.

Prior to their trip to Australia, the Lonergans had been teachers for the Peace Corps in Fiji. But conspiracy theorists suggest that these positions were only cover for their true roles working for a spy network in the South Pacific.

When the CIA learnt that the couple was planning to sell classified information to enemies of the state, the story went, they sent a hit squad in a submarine to murder the Lonergans.

There were also 26 unsubstantiated sightings of the couple after their disappearance, which fuelled rumours that they had faked their deaths in order to start a new life.

But the most likely explanation of what happened to the couple surfaced six months after their disappearance when, 144 kilometres north of St Crispin Reef, a fisherman discovered a diver’s slate (used to write notes underwater).

On it, in what was positively identified as Tom Lonergan’s handwriting, was a short message. "Monday, January 26, 1998. 8am. To anyone who can help us. We have been abandoned here by the Outer Edge. Please help us or we will die. Tom and Eileen Lonergan.’’

Much to the dissatisfaction of conspiracy theorists everywhere, a coronial inquest in May 2000 judged the couple had most likely been taken by sharks.

- New York Times

Open Water screens from October 14.

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: The Age

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



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