Patrick McDermott was said to be lost at sea after he disappeared on an overnight fishing trip in June 2005 — but some investigators believe he's still alive.
On June 30, 2005, Patrick McDermott got on board a charter fishing boat for a solo overnight fishing trip. The 48-year-old cameraman and lighting designer was a regular on these excursions. But tragically, this one would end very differently.
On July 1, the other 22 passengers and crew members safely exited the boat at the marina in Los Angeles. But Patrick McDermott was never seen again.
An official investigation by the United States Coast Guard found that McDermott was likely lost at sea. But some private investigators and media outlets argued that the evidence didn’t add up — and some believe he is actually alive and well, hiding out somewhere in Mexico.
What actually happened to Patrick McDermott, the long-time, on-again, off-again boyfriend of pop superstar Olivia Newton-John?
Patrick McDermott’s Troubled Personal Life
Patrick McDermott was born in South Korea in 1956 with the name Kim Chong-Nam, according to the Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo. He was adopted by an American family at two years old. As an adult, he made a living as a cameraman and lighting designer in Hollywood.
By 1994, he had married and divorced actress Yvette Nipar, with whom he had a son named Chance.
But financial troubles soon began racking up for McDermott. In 2000, he filed for bankruptcy, owing more than $30,000 to creditors. He had also fallen behind on child support payments since the divorce, and a court ordered him to pay all of his outstanding payments.
Despite his money problems, McDermott seemed by all appearances to be doing well in his personal life. In the years after his divorce from Nipar, he had started dating Australian singer and actress Olivia Newton-John.
“You truly are an incredible human being and someone so special to this whole planet,” McDermott said to Newton-John on Australia’s “This Is Your Life” in 2004, according to NBC News. “And if we could all just be a little bit like you, we’d all be a little better off. I love you with all my heart.”
By the time he disappeared in 2005, McDermott and Newton-John had been dating for nine years. It was believed they had broken up shortly before his disappearance.
The Details Of His Disappearance
When Patrick McDermott left for his overnight fishing trip on June 30, 2005, nothing seemed amiss. He was a regular client on these kinds of excursions, and no one aboard the boat noticed anything unusual or suspicious.
The boat had departed a marina in San Pedro, Los Angeles without a hitch, and safely returned to shore the following day, seemingly with all 23 passengers and crew members on board, though no final head count was taken when the boat docked.
McDermott’s disappearance initially went completely unnoticed. It wasn’t until he failed to show up for a family event on July 6 that his ex-wife suspected something might be wrong.
Yvette Nipar called Frank Liversedge, the manager of the marina in San Pedro, to ask if he had seen McDermott. As it turned out, a fanny pack containing one of the passengers’ belongings had been left behind on the boat the day of McDermott’s excursion. The bag had then sat unclaimed in the marina office for over a week.
Realizing who the fanny pack likely belonged to, and with Nipar’s permission, Liversedge opened it. Inside were McDermott’s car keys, driver’s license, and wallet. Liversedge then located McDermott’s car in the marina parking lot.
“I came back to the office, I called the police, called the Coast Guard. I said, ‘I got what looks like a potential problem,'” Liversedge said.
About 11 days after he seemingly vanished from the fishing boat, Patrick McDermott was reported missing.
Unraveling The Contradictory Evidence
The Coast Guard conducted a missing persons investigation and soon concluded that Patrick McDermott had fallen overboard at some point during the 22-hour boat trip and drowned. Strangely, however, his bill had been paid in full less than an hour before the boat docked. Liversedge noted that this was odd timing.
“From that point back to this dock, it’s almost a million to one odds that a guy could fall overboard, jump overboard, be pushed overboard, without half of the boat seeing it,” Liversedge said to NBC News. “Everybody’s up on deck right outside the back doors to the galley. And the boat’s going forward. Anyone fell overboard, they would become visible.”
And according to Liversedge, some of the other passengers actually did report seeing McDermott getting off the boat.
“I understand that some of the passengers gave depositions to the Coast Guard, stating that they thought they saw him get off the boat,” Liversedge told NBC. “They were pretty sure that he got off the boat; they talked to him during the day.”
These details, while hazy, fueled speculation that McDermott may have disappeared of his own volition.
“He allegedly drowned off this fishing boat which was not some big cruise ship. It had 22 passengers,” said private investigator John J. Nazarian, who was the first PI on the case, in an interview with The Daily Beast. “If you were on this boat and somebody dropped a tuna fish sandwich you’d hear it, never mind someone falling overboard. I think he just walked off the boat and nobody noticed him.”
Patrick McDermott: Dead Or Alive?
Since Patrick McDermott’s mysterious disappearance in 2005, theories have abounded online and in the media that McDermott actually faked his own death.
The leading alternative theory is that McDermott disappeared to avoid paying his debts, and has since been hiding out in Mexico. By staging his “death,” McDermott would also reportedly have enabled his son to cash in on a $100,000 life insurance policy.
Over the years, there have been a number of alleged McDermott sightings across Mexico and Central America, none of which have been verified.
“If you got nothing here for ya, what’s the point of staying here?” said Nick Papps, an Australian journalist that has been reporting on McDermott since his disappearance, on NBC News’s Dateline. “So where do you go? You hop in a car, you drive through Mexico, where no one checks your passport. And you go to the Baja Peninsula. Which is known as a sunny place for shady people.”
In 2009, Dateline hired Texas-based private investigator Philip Klein and sent him down to Mexico to see if there was anything to the theory that McDermott faked his own death.
“He’s alive — there’s no doubt in my mind, this guy’s alive,” Klein told Dateline.
Investigators set up a website, FindPatrickMcDermott.com, to post updates about the search. They also secretly logged the IP addresses of anyone who visited the website to see if anyone — namely McDermott — was repeatedly checking the progress of the investigation.
The website has since been discontinued, but not before investigators noticed a cluster of hits from the same area off the western coast of Mexico that they believed to be from McDermott.
In 2010, Klein and the other investigators on the Dateline team claimed they had made contact with McDermott, who was allegedly living under his birth name.
“Mr. McDermott’s wishes, according to his counsel, is not to be ‘hounded’ any longer by investigators or the media,” Klein said.
Inside The Alleged Patrick McDermott Sightings
Over the next decade, several other private investigators and news outlets claimed to have “found” Patrick McDermott. In one case reported in 2018 by CBC, a photo that allegedly showed McDermott in Mexico was circulated among tabloid news outlets — only for a Canadian man to come forward and identify himself as the man in the photo.
Perhaps the most interesting claim came from Eduardo Mejia, the son of a cafe owner in El Pescadero, Mexico. Mejia claimed he recognized McDermott, and that the former cameraman attempted to pay him to not reveal his identity.
“The first thing he did was when I told him that some people came to ask for him, he grabbed a black bag from his car, sat down on a table, took out a checkbook, and then he tells me, ‘How much does your silence cost?’ ‘I don’t want money,’ I answered him,” Mejia told Dateline in 2009.
But these claims have never been corroborated, and no one has come forward with an authentic photo of McDermott since his disappearance.
“Are you f***ing kidding me?” scoffed private investigator Nazarian. “This guy is in Mexico for 12 years in the era of camera phones and nobody can get a picture of him? What is he? The Loch Ness monster? Sasquatch?”
The Aftermath Of Patrick McDermott’s Disappearance
To this day, the official finding is that Patrick McDermott was lost at sea. A Coast Guard statement published in 2009 said the investigation “did not find any evidence of criminal action, suicide, accident or hoax.”
After McDermott disappeared, Olivia Newton-John and McDermott’s ex-wife, Yvette Nipar, bonded over their shock and grief.
“When my son’s father, Patrick McDermott, disappeared 17 years ago, becoming friends with his girlfriend, Olivia Newton-John, never entered my mind,” Nipar wrote following Newton-John’s death. “She called every day and often had Chance and me over for dinner. She was the one person who consistently checked in on us and had an incredible instinct to call just when I was headed down a rabbit hole and talk me out of it.”
We may never know just what happened to McDermott that fateful day. For her part, Olivia Newton-John wondered about the fate of her former boyfriend until her own death in 2022.
“It’s human to wonder but you know, those are the things in life you have to accept and let go,” she said in 2016. “There’s always those concerns. But I live on.”
After reading about the disappearance of Patrick McDermott, read about 11 of the most famous unsolved disappearances. Or, read about the mysterious disappearance of aspiring Hollywood starlet Jean Spangler.