Tom and Eileen Lonergan, the couple left abandoned in shark-infested waters by a boat, ended up inspiring one of the scariest horror films ever seen.
If you try to think of the scariest possible thing that could happen to a person, it’s likely you’d come up with something similar to the fates of Tom and Eileen Lonergan.
The disappearance of the American couple remains a mystery that has never been solved.
But what happened to the pair is so viscerally frightening that it ended up inspiring a truly terrifying horror movie…
Tom and Eileen Lonergan went diving with a tour boat off the coast of Australia on January 25, 1998.
But tragically, the couple never returned from their adventure.
The expedition took off from Port Douglas, in Queensland, Australia, en route to St. Crispin’s reef.
The stunning area of the Great Barrier Reef is a popular tourist spot – but the shark-infested waters mean any divers have to proceed with caution.
From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tom was 33 and Eileen was 28.
The couple was described as ‘young, idealistic and in love with each other’.
After meeting at university, the couple spent a year serving at the Peace Corps in Fiji.
Following their service, the pair decided to visit Australia to do some diving.
Using the diving company, Outer Edge, 26 passengers boarded the scuba boat.
Geoffrey Nairn, the boat’s skipper, took the party out 25 miles to sea, and the participants all entered the water.
Horrifyingly, this is the last concrete bit of information anyone has about Tom and Eileen.
After around 40 minutes, the rest of the divers emerged from the water, got back on the boat, and returned to dry land.
It took a while before anyone even noticed that Tom and Eileen weren’t with them.
Two whole days passed before Nairn realised that the pair were missing, because he had discovered a bag containing their wallets and passports on the boat.
After Nairn raised the alarm, a huge search party started, including both the Navy and civilian vessels.
Terrifyingly, certain items belonging to the Lonergan’s began to wash ashore, including a dive slate which bore the harrowing message: “To anyone who can help us: We have been abandoned on Agin court reef Reef 25 Jan 1998 03pm. Please help us come to rescue us before we die. Help!!!”
And what’s even more chilling?
The fact that the couple’s bodies were never found.
Following the pair’s disappearance, some disturbing diary entries of Eileen’s sparked conspiracy theories over what happened to the pair.
She 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.
“He hopes to die a quick and painless death, and he hopes it happens soon.”
Eventually, an inquest was held, with coroner Noel Nunan concluding that Nairn was responsible for the tragedy.
Nunan said: “The skipper should be vigilant for the safety of passengers and ensure safety measures are carried out.
“When you combine the number of mistakes and the severity of the mistakes I am satisfied a reasonable jury would find Mr Nairn guilty of manslaughter on criminal evidence.”
Nairn was acquitted by the jury, however, his company Outer Edge Boat Company went bankrupt following the scandal, as per The Guardian.
The tragedy prompted a change in law in Queensland, requiring diving boat skippers to perform headcounts to all divers onboard, according to Daily Express.
The couple’s disappearance inspired the petrifying 2003 horror film Open Water, which currently boasts a 71% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.