It was while out on the ocean they both love, with a ring he had bought four years ago and as a manta ray swam lazily beneath them.
If Turia Pitt’s marriage proposal could have been more romantic, it’s hard to know how.
The inspiring burns survivor and her long-term beau, Michael Hoskin, have become engaged while holidaying on a boat in the Maldives. And so the country’s greatest love story continues.
Certainly, if there’s been one thing more persistently inspiring than Turia Pitt’s remarkable tale of triumph over adversity, it’s been the love story that has underpinned it.
Michael – the former copper from Ulladulla, the boy she knew at school and admired from afar, the man Turia credits with giving her the strength to rebuild her life after suffering horrific burns in a bushfire during an ultramarathon – has finally put a ring on it. And Turia couldn’t be happier.
“I’m so overwhelmed with love at the moment,” Turia told The Weekly from the deck of the Ocean Divine, the boat on which the couple have been vacationing. “It’s an incredible feeling.
Michael’s my life partner. I’ve known > that for years. And we’ve talked about marriage for as long as I can remember and yet the proposal still came as a surprise.”
So how did it come to pass? Who said what to whom? How was it said and where? Like all good proposal stories, the beauty of this one is in the detail. And, like all good romantics, Michael had planned his marriage proposal meticulously. A proposal that has been four years in the making.
“When Turia was in intensive care after her accident, I went out and bought a diamond ring,” Michael says. “I showed it to my dad as we stood by her hospital bedside and said, “If she lives, I am going to marry her.” Dad just looked at me and said, ‘Good on you, mate’.”
Hatched in a moment of despair and executed in a tropical paradise.
The proposal itself came as night fell on the Ocean Divine. The couple was below deck in their cabin when the call rang out that a giant manta ray was basking in waters just beneath their moored boat. Sensing that this was his moment, Michael grabbed the diamond ring he had been painstakingly concealing all trip, tore up onto the deck and under a night’s sky blanketed with stars, asked his girl if she would do him the honour of marrying him.
And what did they then do to mark this auspicious moment?
“We put on goggles and a snorkel, and dived in and swam with the manta ray for about an hour,” says Turia. “It was magical.”
Which, as anyone who knows the pair will attest, is about as close to bliss as this couple could possibly experience.
“I have to say I was a bit nervous,” Michael says of the hours leading up to his big proposal. “I didn’t realise how nerve-wracking proposing marriage can be. I had the ring hidden in a zip pocket in my day pack. But I was so scared of losing the ring, I practically slept with the day pack on my back. So, yeah – I’m obviously happy that she said yes, but I’m also relieved that it’s all over.”
The news will also come as a relief to Michael’s dad, Gary. Until Michael placed the ring on Turia’s finger, she knew nothing of its existence. After buying it from a diamond merchant in the small
Kimberley town of Kununurra – where the couple lived and worked before Turia’s accident – Michael had left the ring in his father’s safe for safe-keeping.
“I didn’t want to propose until the time was right. I didn’t want to rush it – after the accident,” Michael says. “For the past year or so, Dad has been dropping hints every time he gets me alone.
He’s made a point of reminding me about the ‘little present’ in his safe, making sure I haven’t forgotten it.
“But the timing hasn’t been right until now. We talked about marriage before Turia’s accident, but the past four years have been the toughest of both of our lives and it’s really only been the last six months that I feel like we’ve returned to normal, back to the way things used to be between us. It’s just a good time for us now. It just feels natural.
“We’re looking forward to a big wedding next year. It will be more of a celebration than a big romantic affair. A chance to thank all our friends and family for being a part of our journey these last few years.”
The diamond – a square-cut solitaire – hails from the Kimberley, from the Argyle diamond mine, where Turia worked as an engineer before she was caught in a bushfire while running an ultramarathon in September 2011.
She sustained burns to more than 65 per cent of her body in the fire. Doctors were initially unsure she would live – much less make the remarkable recovery she has made. Testament, Michael says, to her super-human spirit.
The couple has just spent two weeks surfing and free-diving around the islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. And, at the time of going to press, Turia was midway through an assault of the Inca trail in Peru – part of a fundraising effort for Interplast, the reconstructive surgery charity of which she is an ambassador.
“Right now, though,” says Turia by phone, “it’s just me and Michael in our little bubble on the boat. The crew organised a little private meal for us last night – with petals strewn across the tablecloth. I feel really grown-up now. I have a fiancé. I guess this means I have to start acting like a grown-up.”
Which includes taking special care of her newest possession.
“We’re going to get a necklace for my ring when we get to Singapore,” says Turia. “It’s already fallen off my finger about five times, which is not ideal when you’re on a boat. I’ve put it back in the box until we get home. But I can’t stop looking at it.
“Can you believe Michael held on to that ring for four years? How special is that?” How special indeed.
To see all the pictures of Turia and Michael's magical engagement pick up a copy of August issue of The Australian Women's Weekly is on sale this Thursday.