Ana James, 29 and the love of her life Eli Tonks, who died with five crewmates when the FV Dianne overturned in rough seas off the town of 1170. Ms James said this was one of their favourite pictures.
Ana James, 29 and the love of her life Eli Tonks, who died with five crewmates when the FV Dianne overturned in rough seas off the town of 1170. Ms James said this was one of their favourite pictures.

Heartbreak as fiance lost at sea

THE fiancee of one of the six crewmen who tragically died when the FV Dianne flipped in waters off the town of 1770 remembers the love of her life Eli Tonks as kind, selfless and passionate.

Since his death in October last year Ana James said life had been a rollercoaster.

"Going from planning a wedding with the love of my life to suddenly being on my own, it's been hard," the 29-year-old said.

"Having someone so special tragically taken away from us, it's devastating. I find strength in knowing that Eli would want me to stay positive and not dwell in negativity, he always said my positivity was my best trait and one that he loved."

 

Ana James, 29 and the love of her life Eli Tonks, who died with five crewmates when the FV Dianne overturned in rough seas off the town of 1170.
Ana James, 29 and the love of her life Eli Tonks, who died with five crewmates when the FV Dianne overturned in rough seas off the town of 1170.

 

A permanent memorial is being constructed at 1770 overlooking where the Dianne was found.

Ms James said that on October 16 this year loved ones would gather to honour the six who lost their lives.

Eli was trapped inside the vessel with skipper Ben Leahy, Adam Bidner, Zach Feeney, Adam Hoffman, Chris Sammut and Ruben McDornan, who managed to get free and was the sole survivor.

Ms James praised Mr McDornan for bravely sharing his story, which aired on Sunday night.

"While I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the entire story, I can't thank Ruben enough for finding the strength to tell their story," she said.

"What he survived is nothing short of a miracle and without him we may have never known what happened to our loved ones, as the safety and monitoring systems utterly failed them.

"The internal pain and survival guilt he must go through daily is unimaginable. He is so brave and I love him to bits."

The bodies of Eli, Adam Bidner, Zachary Feeney and Chris Sammut haven't been found.

 

The FV Dianne has was raised from the seabed and taken into the Port of Bundaberg.
The FV Dianne has was raised from the seabed and taken into the Port of Bundaberg.

Ms James has since returned to her country of birth Canada and reconnected with friends, who have supported her through her grief.

"Cairns was mine and Eli's home together for the last five years, but the memories and familiarity were too much to bear at times. I needed the escape and it really helped me in my healing process in the beginning," she said.

"Social media has been a saviour with keeping in touch with Eli's family and the other families while I've been away."

She said nothing would take away the pain of losing him.

Ruben McDornan speaks on 60 Minutes.
Ruben McDornan speaks on 60 Minutes.


"Closure implies we move on completely and stop feeling heartbroken that they're not here physically, which will never happen," she said.

Adventurous, active and passionate, Eli would have been 40 in April. Ms James said he was the type of person who would go out of his way to help someone, wore his heart on his sleeve and "was the most genuinely kind, selfless and honest person I've ever known".

"There's not been one single day that's gone by that I don't still tell stories about him or think, what would Eli have said or done," she said.

"I believe Eli and the boys' energies and presence are still with us providing us strength and comfort when we need them, and they always will be."



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