BOAT TRAGEDY SHOCK
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.
The stricken boat is hauled into Kaiser Marina in Dampier.