Boat captain abandons Arizona couple diving in Thailand

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

MESA, Ariz. -- An East Valley couple vacationing to celebrate their first anniversary found themselves abandoned in the ocean, after a dive trip went wrong.

Lexa and Jake Mendenhall recently became certified scuba divers, and were looking forward to their first real dives in the blue waters off Thailand.

They made two one-hour dives, and all was well until they surfaced. Their boat was gone.

The Mendenhalls were stranded with two dive instructors from the Thai diving company, and another couple of novice divers.

The sun was setting, and their minds were racing.

"I kept thinking, 'What if there's no boat? It's evening. What boat goes out in the evening?" Lexa wondered.

Her husband had a GoPro camera, and documented part of their dive. Before the batteries died, his video shows nearby cliffs which were too steep to climb.  

A dive instructor waved an inflatable tube in an attempt to signal a boat they saw passing by.  

"Thank goodness she had it. The waves were five-feet, so without it I don't know if the other boat would have seen us at all," Jake said.

They spent 30 to 45 minutes bobbing in the open water.

"When we were bobbing, I knew there were sharks. I saw them all around this reef, and here I am just bait on the top," Lexa remembers.

It was dark by the time they climbed onto another boat, which was full of snorkelers. 

Exhausted and freezing, Lexa collapsed and split her chin open. The wound required stitches.

They later found out, their boat captain had engine trouble and chose to leave them all in the water while he went back to shore.

"The fact that he left is just insane to me," Jake said.

The Mendenhalls say the dive company had good reviews online when they chose it.