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An Arizona couple vacationing in Thailand to celebrate their first anniversary almost didn’t make it to a second after they were abandoned in the ocean after a scuba diving trip.
Lexa and Jake Mendenhall trained in Arizona to become certified scuba divers and chose Thailand with its reefs, shipwrecks and clear waters for their first real dive. After the second of their two one-hour dives, the couple, along with two dive instructors, surfaced to find their boat was gone.
The situation Lexa and Jake Mendenhall found themselves in had an eerie similarity to the film Open Water, which itself was based on the real-life events of couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan. In 1998, the Lonergans were left behind by a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. They were never seen again.
As the sun began to set, the Mendenhalls became increasingly anxious. There was no sign of the boat, and they were terrified none would be passing as darkness began to fall. ‘I kept thinking, “What if there’s no boat? It’s evening. What boat goes out in the evening?”
Jake Mendenhall filmed on his GoPro camera before its battery died. The footage shows the divers out in open water with choppy waves and no sign of any boats. ‘When we were bobbing, I knew there were sharks. I saw them all around this reef, and here I am just bait on the top,’ Lexa Mendenhall said. After about 45 minutes, one of the instructors spied a boat and began waving an inflatable tube to get the attention of its captain.
‘Thank goodness she had it. The waves were five-feet, so without it I don’t know if the other boat would have seen us at all,’ Jake Mendenhall said. It was dark by the time the Mendenhalls boarded the boat, which was full of returning scuba divers.
Lexa Mendenhall was so exhausted from cold and fear that she fell and split her chin open. Upon their return, they discovered that their boat’s captain had decided to go to shore because his boat was having engine trouble. ‘The fact that he left is just insane to me,’ said Jake Mendenhall