Tom and Eileen Lonergan were a married couple from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who were stranded January 25, 1998, while scuba diving with a group of divers off Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The group's boat from the (Outer Edge Dive Company) accidentally abandoned them due to a faulty head count taken by the dive boat crew. Upon leaving the diving area, the twenty-six other divers and five crew members failed to notice that the couple was not aboard. The couple was left to fend for themselves in shark-infested waters. Although their bodies were never recovered, they likely eventually died of dehydration, drowning, shark attack, or a combination thereof.
It was not until two days later on January 27, 1998, that the pair were found to be missing after a bag containing their passports and belongings was found onboard the dive boat. A massive air and sea search took place over the following three days.
Several theories surrounding their disappearance still abound. At the time it was suggested that the Lonergans might have staged their disappearance. There was speculation in Australia that the theory of them staging their disappearance was concocted to take the heat off the diving company's owner. Most experts later dismissed this theory, as the Lonergan's bank accounts were never touched and their insurance policies were not claimed.
Another theory suggested that the pair committed suicide, or murder-suicide. This theory was bolstered by entries found in both victims' diaries. Excerpts from Tom Lonergan's personal diary were used to portray a deeply disturbed man who was looking for a 'quick and peaceful' death. Eileen's writings had expressed concern for her well being given Tom's 'death wish.' She had openly chosen to stay with Tom Lonergan, no matter the outcome.
However, the diary entries were taken out of context, according to Eileen's parents and family members. The family, coroner Noel Nunan and the Port Douglas police claim that only pages that would validate the suicide theory were leaked to the press, whereas the majority of the diaries remain unread except by the Coroner, Port Douglas police, and the Hains family. Additionally, the coroner seemed to agree with that assessment when he dismissed suggestions that the Lonergans had either committed suicide or faked their own disappearance. Further, according to the Port Douglas police, Dive Queensland spokesman Col. McKenzie was directly involved with and possibly responsible for spreading theories that the Lonergans had faked their deaths. To date, McKenzie insists the Lonergans are still alive. "Most marine experts, myself included, feel that the Lonergans are not dead," says Col McKenzie.
Although some of their gear was found washed up later miles away from where they were lost, their bodies were never found. This recovered gear included a diver's slate which read: "Monday Jan 26; 1998 08am.