Tributes flow for drowned diver

LIZ NEWELLAlbany Advertiser

A free-diver who drowned near Bald Head on Sunday has been remembered as “the kind of bloke you’d happily have a barbie with” by those who knew him best.

Thirty-year-old Thomas Michael Nicholson – “Tom” to his many mates – failed to surface after free-diving by the small boat he had anchored with friends about 50m off the coast.

The three men had enjoyed an uneventful series of dives and were about to climb back into their boat and call it a day.

Mr Nicholson, who arrived in Albany about eight months ago and had been free-diving for about three years, offered to remain in the water to make sure the anchor rose. His diving partners, close friends Brad Mann and Graeme Evans, left him to it, but he didn’t resurface.

“I pulled the anchor and he did a dive and that was the last I’ve seen of him,” Mr Mann said.

“After about two minutes of not seeing him, I started to think something was up or that he’d resurfaced and dove again.”

A brief, anxious period of waiting and searching followed. About 10 minutes after the anchor was hauled, Mr Nicholson had still failed to surface.

Alerting Albany Sea Rescue Squad, the pair returned to the water in search of their friend. They found him. All they could do was drop anchor and wait.

When sea rescue arrived on the scene, the Police Dive Squad was dispatched from Perth to recover his body.

They pulled him out at 4.30pm that day.

“The only thing we can put it down to is a shallow-water blackout,” Mr Mann said.

He had only known Mr 8Nicholson for about three months and now it feels as if he’s lost a brother.

“You couldn’t ask for a better bloke,” he said.

“We’ve become quite close in the time we’ve known each other.

“He lived to dive … he was a very, very experienced diver, very good at it, and he loved it.”

Close friend Paul Davies-Reid was one of the Albany Sea Rescue Squad members first to arrive on the scene.

He is also the president of the WA Undersea Albany division, a State-wide club mainly for 8recreational free-divers and 8spear-fishers.

Mr Davies-Reid described Mr Nicholson as “easy-going” and “more than happy to pitch in and join in and help out wherever he could”.

“He was always willing to put guys in his boat and take people (out),” he said. “If he wasn’t working, he was in the water – that was where he wanted to be.”

Rob Daniel, of Albany’s 1849 Backpackers, met Mr Nicholson when he first arrived in town to undertake a radiology placement at Albany Hospital as part of rotating relief work around the State.

“He was one of the loveliest guys I’ve had through the place,” Mr Daniel recalled.

“He was friends with everybody. Everybody who met him loved him, they thought he was great. (His death) has really hit people hard here.”

Got a story? Email

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails