Special Report: The loss of Tuvalu RPCVs Tom and Eileen Lonergan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tuvalu: Special Report: The loss of Tuvalu RPCVs Tom and Eileen Lonergan
The loss of Tuvalu Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) Tom and Eileen Lonergan

 Tom and Eileen Lonergan

By Mike Jones (17.honolulu-01rh15-16rt.hi.dial-access.att.net - on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 5:15 pm: Edit Post

I knew Tom and Eileen. We served together in the Peace Corps. They were among those I considered to be my best friends in Peace Corps Fiji.
On many occasions, Tom and Eileen stayed at my place in Suva when they came into town from their teaching stint at Sigatoka Methodist School to do PC business, catch a movie and maybe get a bite at the golden arches.
They were just like the rest of us PCV's. They went through the challenges of Peace Corps life and were open and honest about their experiences.
They were, like me, healthily cynical and had a great sense of humor.
When I found out about what had happened to them, I was beyond shocked. To see their PC ID's on CNN was something I was totally unprepared for.
Over subsequent months and years, I have heard all of the ridiculous things said about Tom and Eileen, and I know that it would make their eyes roll at the self-serving nature of it all.
Tom and Eileen were two of the most wonderful, vivacious, adventurous, and generous people you could ever hope to meet. They were magnificent friends, and I miss them every day. They should never have met their end in this way. They had planned on traveling a bit, and then "living in Rodney's closet in Hawaii" for a while, until they figured out what to do next.
They never got that chance, and that is a tragedy beyond measure, but I know that they felt as I did, that, at the end of their PC service, they had accomplished something great. They devoted themselves to helping others, not for any sense of glory or martyr-like fame, but just to be of help to their fellow humans. They felt like we all did, that they could die tomorrow and their lives would have been complete. Though they died far far too early, they died as heroes. They answered the call of service, and they helped untold numbers of people.
In the ridiculousness which has followed, no one has covered this aspect of their lives, no one has spoken of the lives they lived, the people whose lives they changed forever.
Tom and Eileen should be honored and praised for the life they lived, not coldly depicted for their tragic end.
The true tragedy is what has happened since they were abandoned. Shame on all those who profited and continue to profit, shame on those who lied to cover their own asses.
To the parents, family and friends of Tom and Eileen, I offer my deepest sympathies.
Michael Jones
PC Fiji/Tuvalu 95-97

By julie (cache-dtc-aa07.proxy.aol.com - on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 8:54 pm: Edit Post

I think the family should have sued their asses. This is just terrible.

By wyatt ( on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 11:49 am: Edit Post

I watched the movie "open water"and immediately felt the urge to find out what the true story was.I practically read every article on the internet regarding the tragic end of Tom and Eileen Lonergan and even tried to get hold of the coroner's inquest and court hearings with the view to further understand this tragedy.
I feel sorry for the family and friends of Tom and Eileen and offer my deepest sympathies.I despise the judicial stance of the court and jury for acquitting the crew of Outer Edge and question whether they would act the same way if it was their own family and relatives who had encountered this tragedy.A cheap verdict of imposing a 27.000 dollar fine on the company and not sentencing the people responsible maybe closed the case but raised a huge question mark in the minds and hearts of many people as to whether industry interests have overruled justice.I condemn and deplore the acts and actions of people and groups that have tried to dishonour the couple by fabricating lies just to save the dive and tourism industry.
I honor and praise the life Tom and Eileen lived.May their souls rest in peace.

By pattry puckett (209-165-50-124.jps.net - on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 11:40 pm: Edit Post

I just returned from diving the great Barrier reef out of Port Douglas. I just watched Open
Water. After watching I learned that they were missing at the same reef we dove at. I had heard that the Movie was based on missing divers from the Carribean somewhere. After learning the true story I was dissapointed that they did not portray more of the truth about what happened, where it happened and more about Tom and Eileen. 1 week after our third open water dive at the Great Barrier there was a Tiger shark attack on a diver near the same reef, the diver died. I'm glad I found out all about this after our dive. Was not that thrilled with the over rated diving at the Great Barrier anyway. Next stop Virgin Islands

By linda quigley ( on Monday, January 03, 2005 - 7:04 pm: Edit Post

I have just watched 'open water' and like many people i felt compelled to find out what actually happened to the lonergans.i culdn't believe that they actually died,its just so sad.i also cant believe that people would say that the couple were faking their own deaths.its not fair on their families at all,they should be left to grieve without all the lies.
thank you 2 whoever runs this web site.
Linda. Dublin,Ireland.

By Debbie in New York (ool-182f06f9.dyn.optonline.net - on Thursday, January 06, 2005 - 10:34 pm: Edit Post

Its amazing now, 6 years later, that we are finally getting national attention for the Lonergan's story. I too just watched the DVD that was released this week. After watching it its amazing how you want to find out who this story was based on and what happened. I was shocked to put their names in the GOOGLE web search and see so much on them. What sickens me the most is all that was made up about this couple at the captain's trial just to get him aquitted. Faking their deaths? Swimming to an Italian boat? Only those who are truly stranded in the middle of the ocean for hours with no food or water with sharks swimming around you can understand how hard it would be for them to swim ashore or to a boat in the distance. I hope the family of the Lonergans understand the reasons why the movie couldnt be soley about Tom & Eileen. Take heart in knowing the film brought awareness to the problems of poor head counts and the need for more qualified crew members on these dives. Its an amazing film and I'm glad I got to see it finally. May they truly rest in peace.

By C. Lenehand (cs662536-213.houston.rr.com - on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 2:53 pm: Edit Post

My sincerest sympthany to the parents of Tom and Eileen Lonergan and all the other divers lost at sea. The diving slate washing ashore was surely God's work to say didn't plan their death as the defense claims.

I think the Australian Prosecutors and jury were pathetic. The captain and crew should have gotten prison or the same fate. Since you can not be tried twice I would like to see a movie made about how the Captain and crew covered their tracks to avoid prosection.

By Ricky Wilson (65-73-139-26.sdsl01.roc.ny.frontiernet.net - on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 4:16 pm: Edit Post

Lets remember these two people as giving and caring. I think they should do another movie depicting the truth. The real character of Tom and Eileen. Good Human souls, let them rest in peace.

By ggcook (user154.net2.whitworth.edu - on Thursday, April 07, 2005 - 11:50 pm: Edit Post

A tragic loss for sure. The Australian courts and the jury held out politics and tourism money as more important than holding those responsible for their negligence. As an experienced diver, and an attorney, I can see both sides of the issue. But one's sloppiness should not be an excuse for manslaughter. The skipper and the entire crew are responsible. This skipper and crew will live a hellish life, much like the hellish last 48 hours of Tom and Elaine.

By Rolando Mota (adsl-66-123-253-91.dsl.sndg02.pacbell.net - on Monday, June 27, 2005 - 2:35 am: Edit Post

To All International Tourists: Boycott the Australian diving industry. Thank You

By tara dutton ( on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 7:15 am: Edit Post

along with everyone else that has watched the movie OPEN WATER, I was disturbed to hear there was hardly any justice.
as an australian i am disgusted our own could be so incompetent and resulted in the tragedy brought upon eilleen and tom lonergan..

may there souls rest in peace.

By Robert Taylor (24-117-154-254.cpe.cableone.net - on Friday, February 17, 2006 - 4:23 pm: Edit Post

I have to say that this Movie bothers me, I am now glad that I didn't have the time to see it in the Theater. I have Just recently viewed it in my home in NE, and My heart goes out to there family, I guess I am most upset about how the movie ends, I could have done with out the whole shark thing. It is sad to know that so many people have Proffited from the deaths of these poor people, A TRIBUTE Should have been done Instead.

By Jenise Ross (c-68-48-167-9.hsd1.md.comcast.net - on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 1:36 pm: Edit Post

My husband and I watched the movie last night and turned the CD off around the scene where the husband was bitten. We realised we could not sleep and turned the CD back on and watched the rest of the movie. It was quite disturbing. Like most, I am on the net today to find more information about the Longernan's. On school trips kids call out their names or count is taken out loud. May Tom and Eileen rest in peace and may this tragedy shed light on how the diving industry operates.

By abdul rahim (c-69-251-246-96.hsd1.md.comcast.net - on Sunday, March 19, 2006 - 12:57 am: Edit Post

What a tragic story i feel terrible for their families. The australian coverup was despicable.

By Anonymous (chvpkntproxy4.chevrontexaco.com - on Monday, June 12, 2006 - 12:04 pm: Edit Post

I just watched Open Water....I had to do some research on the Lonergans. This is sad and stupid on the part of the dive company. Some companies are just worried about making money. Damn them. I would have sued the austrailian dive company. Still bocot them just like Boycott Auruba for natalee holloway.

By Anonymous (catv-50623676.catv.broadband.hu - on Saturday, June 24, 2006 - 7:37 am: Edit Post

I had a dream about the Lonergan couple last night after i watched this film. Tom was in the hotel room with his wife and he lied on his side and looked at me. I heard his voice but i didn't see him speaking. He asked his wife: "Do you remember those days when they were searching us?"

By AOSIRICO ( on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 7:22 pm: Edit Post

How absolutely pathetic that this could happen to two people. Reading a diary and psycho analyzing it to make 'light' of their death is a pitty. Damn the Press. The pain their families have to deal with....and to hear stories of faking death etc..... IT simply sickens me.

By smshepard (c-71-231-224-33.hsd1.or.comcast.net - on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 4:15 pm: Edit Post

I trust this will not 'echo' the messages prior to Aug 2006. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji for 3 years but earlier (86-89 - during the first 2 military coups). I too saw Open Water when released on DVD, was driven to find the true story, and surprised that although Tom and Eileen are mostly portrayed as RPCV's from Tuvalu, there is mention of them living in the Sigatoka, Fiji area and teaching at Sigatoka Methodist School (where my brother-in-law attended classes). Sigatoka is a blessed place, not very touristy, and if this was where the Lonergans spent some of their final days, I hope that having lived in Sigatoka allowed them a lifetime of memories. Finally, if anyone can clarify dates and particulars when they trained in Fiji, moved to Tuvalu, and apparently returned to Fiji near Sigatoka I'd be very grateful. I wish I had known them personally but I feel a kinship and grief considering their brief life after 'Peace Corps'. I'm available in Seattle at shepard.sm@gmail.com. Thank You all for your condolences.

By rina ( on Friday, November 03, 2006 - 5:32 am: Edit Post

i've heard about this tragedy years ago but only yesterday for the first time I saw the movie "Open Water". I felt a sense of anger towards the divers from the same boat and also the diving company... how can they not notice the 2 missing couple. What selfish world we live in at the moment!
My heart goes to the Lonergan's family and friends.
Shame on Australian government for not taking stern actions!

By Catherine (adsl-158-241-196.asm.bellsouth.net - on Sunday, February 04, 2007 - 3:29 pm: Edit Post

May God rest Tom and Eileen in peace.

By Ryan Samarzia (cpe-124-177-176-122.sa.bigpond.net.au - on Saturday, March 17, 2007 - 10:49 am: Edit Post

Just watched Open Water for the second time and like many of you I have researched the situation further.

My thoughts echo all the messages here - I do hope the Diving Companies have learnt from this tragedy. Fingers crossed this situation never occurs again.

Condolences to all friends and family of Tom & Eileen.

By Anonymous (c-66-56-47-164.hsd1.ga.comcast.net - on Wednesday, June 06, 2007 - 1:31 pm: Edit Post

My husband and I watched Open Water last night, and like many of you I was compelled to search for more information on the real divers. I found the entire story extremely tragic. How frightening it must have been to he left in the middle of the ocean.
My husband and I have been talking about different ways that divers, not just the diving companies can make sure something like this never happens. True it is the diving companies responsibility to do well... their job, but hopefully thanks to this horrible acident, divers will put more presure onto their diving groups to do things the right way.

By gail (adsl-223-132-155.mia.bellsouth.net - on Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - 2:20 pm: Edit Post

Again the movie, Open Water, was on cable last night and I was intrigued to watch it again. Then I began to look for information on the real story and came to this site. How irresponsible of the dive boat to have left them for over 2 days, and for the government to cover up this mistake.Although most of the dive industry sets themselves up for the same type of scenario.
Having gone on many charter snorkling trips and gone thru the "head count", I can see how the mistake can be made. Head counts are done as people are told to stand still in the place where they are on the boat. There are usually 2 levels to the boat, an inside area, an outside area, and possibly kids running around not listening.(I've witnessed this first hand).It's not easy to accurately count people in this manner. Someone can be in a bathroom, hidden by someone else, etc. The easiest way to avoid this horrible tragedy again is to have a "sign in". Board the boat, sign your name. Exit the boat, sign your name. How hard is that?

By Leigh McAlpine ( on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - 7:16 am: Edit Post

I watched Open Water for the third time last night. I lived in Port Douglas for 4 years and have been out to the reef many times on both commercial and private boats.
Comming to the surface and looking around you to ocean as far as you can see is an eerie feeling, even when you can see you boat beside you.
My heart goes out to the couple.

By C Riley (adsl-070-145-132-203.sip.mem.bellsouth.net - on Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - 8:07 pm: Edit Post

This is truly a sad story. I feel for the family as there was and will be no ending without bodies. I do not feel sending the captain to jail would be the answer to this tragedy. They had no intentions of killing anyone. Yet their actions effected many even to this day. May GOD be with all those involved especially the couple and their families.

By One Who Cares ( on Friday, September 19, 2008 - 12:07 am: Edit Post

I have just seen "Open Water" and, like the others, felt compelled to read about the true story upon which it was based. I was deeply saddened by the ending of the movie, and even more so by the apparent travesty of justice that occurred afterwords. My prayers go out to the families of Tom and Eileen. May they find peace despite their tragedy, and may the grace of God comfort them.

By TC ( on Monday, November 15, 2010 - 9:18 am: Edit Post

Just saw this film, couldn't believe it is based on a true story. My condolences to the family and friends of the Lonergans.

By Autumn Dawn ( on Saturday, March 26, 2011 - 9:29 pm: Edit Post

truly sad! I really hope this opened the eyes for the people that run boats like that. Their lives are in your hands!!! Dont do a head count, a name count one by one and do it again before the boat leaves. My heart goes out to the family....

By Woody ( on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 - 7:54 pm: Edit Post

I watched the movie at the theaters and although I kew nothing about diving industry and how it works, this movie has always stayed in my mind and I always wanted to really know exactly what had happened. Truly I'm disappointed by the insensitivity of the media and claims that the couple faked their death! Really now? what manner of selfishness is this, that people would go to such great lengths to cover themselves. I watched this more than 10 years ago but is so hard to forget. May their soul rest in peace for all eternity. Woody.centurion,South Africa

By Rafaela ( on Friday, July 01, 2016 - 2:29 am: Edit Post

I just watched this movie with my boyfriend and we are really sad about what happened with the couple. This kind of situation can happen with anyone and we really need to pay attention to that instead of thinking that this could never happen to us. My best wishes for the family.

By xmcygodn ( on Tuesday, March 06, 2018 - 11:49 am: Edit Post

I will NEVER go diving in Australia! This happened to numerous others too.

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