BOAT TRAGEDY SHOCK

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr and Tayissa Barone

Two men drawn to­gether by a mu­tual love of the ocean died do­ing what they adored, ac­cord­ing to friends left in shock by their deaths.

The bod­ies of Lawrence Smith, 24, and Matt Pen­ning­ton, 29, were found af­ter their boat cap­sized in the Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago on Sun­day.

The two men moved to the Pil­bara from the East Coast for work and both were avid spearfish­er­men, with each of their so­cial me­dia pages flooded with pic­tures of their on-wa­ter en­deav­ours.

The men met only re­cently on a fish­ing trip or­gan­ised by mu­tual friend David Price.

“We just had a re­ally great trip down there, like I’m kind of glad it hap­pened, it was the last dive, the last fish, it was some­thing we’ve been want­ing to do to­gether for a long time — un­for­tu­nately it was our last,” he said.

Mr Price had planned to go out with friends on Sun­day morn­ing, but de­cided at the last minute to go with an­other mate.

He said the men both had an ad­dic­tion to the wa­ter.

He de­scribed Mr Smith as a happy guy who al­ways laughed at ev­ery­thing and Mr Pen­ning­ton as very out­go­ing, who en­joyed liv­ing out­side the com­fort zone.

“They will be greatly missed, I’m still com­ing to terms with it, it doesn’t seem real yet,” Mr Price told 7 News.

“They were very well known, I don’t think there will be any re­grets with the way they lived their lives.”

Jono Faulkner met Mr Pen­ning­ton when the 29year-old asked to visit him in Christ­mas Is­land to go spearfish­ing.

From that ran­dom phone

call, the two men de­vel­oped a close friend­ship that saw them travel to Tonga last year.

“He died do­ing what he loved — he lived life to the full and I think he was des­tined to go that way,” Mr Faulkner said.

“He was a lot more com­fort­able in the wa­ter than out of it, he loved the wa­ter and ev­ery chance he got he was out on his boat and in the wa­ter.”

Erez Bea­tus said the spearfish­ing and free-div­ing com­mu­ni­ties had lost a great man in Mr Pen­ning­ton.

“I don’t think I know many peo­ple who were more com­mit­ted to be­ing in the wa­ter than him,” he said.

“He had some un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ences and spent so much time in the wa­ter … he was very, very in­spir­ing.”

Wa­ter Po­lice be­lieve the pair left Hamp­ton Har­bour in Mr Pen­ning­ton’s boat, Bar Crusher, early on Sun­day morn­ing and hit rocks at a pop­u­lar fish­ing spot near Malus Is­land be­fore dawn.

Divers ar­rived in Dampier on Sun­day, where they joined four he­li­copters, West Pil­bara Vol­un­teer Marine Res­cue, Depart­ment of Trans­port and Wa­ter Po­lice crews in the search and re­cov­ery ef­forts.

Po­lice re­cov­ered the stricken ves­sel on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

Spe­cific de­tails on how the boat cap­sized will be sub­ject to a re­port be­ing pre­pared for the coro­ner.

It is the third ma­jor search and res­cue in­ci­dent off the coast near Kar­ratha in the past 12 months.

In June, 18-year-old Steven Say­lor went miss­ing while spearfish­ing af­ter be­com­ing sep­a­rated from his boat in rough seas.

He was found the next morn­ing af­ter hav­ing swum to shore on De­lam­bre Is­land overnight.

In July, the prawn trawler Re­turner sank in Nickol Bay with three men on board.

It sparked an ex­ten­sive search, re­sult­ing in the body of skip­per Mur­ray Turner be­ing re­cov­ered when the trawler was found off the Bur­rup Penin­sula.

The other two men, Chad Fair­ley and Ma­son Carter, were never found and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into what went wrong are con­tin­u­ing.

Matt Pen­ning­ton

Lawrence Smith

Pic­ture: Louise Alling­ham

The stricken boat is hauled into Kaiser Ma­rina in Dampier.

Matt Pen­ning­ton

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