7 Scuba Diving Nightmares

By: Freelance Contributor

It’s a beautiful calm clear day as you embark on a majestic scuba diving tour that takes you down through clear turquoise waters to explore the vibrant colors of the aqua life below. For many, scuba diving is a method of relaxation and escape from daily life. For new divers, it’s often a long awaited dream come true. No matter your experience level there is always one worst case scenario that every diver hopes will never happen to them. Imagine surfacing from your epic dive only to find that the boat you came on is gone, leaving you stranded at sea. This is a worst nightmare come true for any diver and you might think in this day and age such an incident is almost impossible, but in these 7 cases it actually happened…as most recently as 2013.


1. Tom and Eileen Lonergan -Australia

On January 25, 1998, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, 2 American divers left Port Douglas Australia for a dive tour on the Great Barrier. The pair embarked on a dive at St. Crispin’s reef with their group and their tour boat did the unthinkable and left the dive site without them. It wasn’t until later on when the couples belongings were discovered aboard the vessel that it was determined they were missing at all. Sadly, the Lonergans were never found although some of their gear was discovered leading to them being presumed drowned or taken by sharks. Much controversy surrounded this incident as there were suspicions about the mysterious disappearance. The 2003 movie ‘Open Water’ is said to be based on the Lonergan’s story.

Tom and Eileen Lonergan
Tom and Eileen Lonergan

2. Louise Woodger and Gordon Pratley -Australia

British tourists Louise Woodger and Gordon Pratley spent a terrifying 6 hours drifting on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef after strong currents caused them to become separated from their dive group while out on a dive in September 2005. It wasn’t until a head count was done by the tour company after the first dive that the couple was determined to be missing. Thankfully, the couple was found sunburnt and dehydrated by rescuers at Wheeler Reef off the coast of Townsville. The pair had drifted 6 miles from where they first entered the water and if not found when they were, would have had to spend the night floating the dark waters of the Coral Sea.

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3. Richard Neely and Alison Dalton -Australia

For 19 hours, Richard Neely of Britain and his American girlfriend Alison Dalton clung to each other as they drifted in Australia’s Whitsunday’s Islands, stranded by their dive tour. In May of 2008, Neely and Dalton who were both experienced divers were on the second day of a dive tour near Hayman Island. After surfacing from their dive, the couple realized they had drifted away due to currents. They could still see the boat but unfortunately no one saw the couple who despite their best efforts were unable to signal anyone on board. The couple were pulled even farther away by strong currents and thankfully survived the 19 hours they spent in the water before being rescued by an air search crew.

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4. Timothy and Paula Allen -Florida

On May 9th, 2009 Florida couple Timothy and Paula Allen who had been diving for 2 years, were carried away from their boat by a current and left drifting around the Gulf of Mexico for 24 hours. The couple made the mistake of leaving their boat unattended while they were diving and surfaced to find strong currents which they were unable to fight and were carried away into the Gulf. Suffering from hypothermia, dehydration and hallucinations due to their long time in the water, The Allens were thankfully found and rescued by two teenagers who were attending a boat while their father was diving below.

scuba with sting ray


5. Ian Cole -Australia

It’s not just divers who can get left behind, this frightening experience can happen to snorkelers as American tourist Ian Cole found out in June 2011. Cole was on a snorkeling tour in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and after surfacing, discovered he was all alone in the waters near Michaelmas Cay. According to reports, the boat tour had mistaken their head count resulting in them leaving the then 28 year old behind. Thankfully, Cole was able to spot another tour boat not far and still had the strength to swim 15 minutes to reach the boat where he learned his tour had left without him.


6. Paul Kilne and Fernando Garcia Puerta -Florida

In October 2011, deep sea divers Paul Kilne and Fernando Garcia Puerta were on a chartered dive tour in Biscane Bay near Miami Florida. The pair were scheduled to do two 1 hour dives at two different locations that day. They surfaced after 55 minutes into the first dive to find that their chartered boat was gone. They assumed there must have been an emergency and that another boat would be back for them but that never happened. They were able to cling to a buoy for about 2 hours and luckily were spotted by the crew of a passing yacht who brought the men to safety.


7. Lexa and Jake Mendenhall -Thailand

A trip to Thailand to celebrate their first wedding anniversary turned into a terrifying experience for Lexa and Jake Mendenhall of Arizona. While on their dive tour in Thailand in November 2013, the dive boat abandoned the 2 divers and 1 instructor while they were all underwater after the boat was having engine problems. The divers bobbed in the water for about 45 minutes before being rescued by another boat. The couple were extremely relieved as it was starting to get dark and they feared being left overnight.

scuba with sharks