A year ago, Eleanor Collins didn’t have the strength to say thank you.
Her husband, Lawrence Collins disappeared in Grand Passage, while diving for sea urchins on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012.
“I want to thank the community for taking the time and all the effort to look for him, even though they didn’t know him,” Eleanor told the Courier this week by phone from Ontario.
“He wasn’t an outgoing guy, he was quiet and he didn’t have a lot of people who’d flock to him. So he would have been really touched by all they did for him.”
Her husband was last seen about noon when he and two others divers went into the water just north of the village of Westport, Brier Island.
Lawrence had 10 years' diving experience, but none to speak of in marine environments like the notoriously strong and unpredictable currents of Grand Passage.
“I really though it was a temporary thing and he was going to be back pretty quick,” she says. “”I thought he’d get down there and he might not get the job.”
Visibility on the bottom of Grand Passage is only 10 to 15 feet and divers have about 19 minutes air time on the bottom. The current routinely pushes divers 500m or more through the passage.
The people working with Collins didn’t notice he was missing until about a half hour later, when he failed to resurface.
Another diver who went in to look for Collins was swept south through the passage more than a kilometer, as far as Peters Island. A local fishing boat, returning from hauling traps, picked him up.
The Coast Guard and fishing boats from Long and Brier Islands started the search. Helicopters from CFB Greenwood and from the RCMP joined in as did fishermen from across St. Mary’s Bay from Saulnierville, Meteghan and Salmon River.
Local ground search and rescue teams and fire fighters walked the shorelines.
The next afternoon, after 48-hours of searching, the RCMP said there was no longer a realistic chance of finding Collins alive.
Eleanor got a phone call about 3 in the afternoon. Lawrence wasn’t coming home.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “The reality slowly sank in. It has been a horrific year.”
Larry’s body was never found.
Now on the anniversary of her husband’s death, Eleanor wanted to make sure the people who took part in the search knew a little about Larry.
He left behind six brothers: Graham, John, Alec, Rob, Mac and David. A mother: Barbara.
Eleanor and Eleanor’s son, Jordan, Lawrence’s stepson. Jordan graduates from college this year.
He had wanted Larry to teach him how to drive a standard. Larry had wanted to see him graduate from college.
Larry and Eleanor went for motorcycle rides and nature walks together. They had supper at 6 and were in bed by 10.
“We called ourselves the Borings,” she says.
They camped every year at Sharbot Lake, five or six times a year. They honeymooned there.
Larry was a Buffalo Sabres fan.
His favourite band was Rush.
“He was a plain jane kind of guy,” she says. “He’d do anything for anybody; and never complain.”
Eleanor plans to spend the anniversary quietly thinking of Larry.
And of a small community 1,000 km away.
“Their effort hasn’t gone forgotten,” she says.