HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Two cave divers are dead after an apparent drowning in Hernando County, at “Buford Springs Cave.”
According to the sheriff’s office, on Wednesday at 12:20 p.m., a 911 call came in for a possible drowning at the cave, which is located in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park in Weeki Wachee.
The person who called was a one of three minors.
According to the sheriff’s office, around 11 a.m., two adults arrived and prepared for their dive, chatting with the minors. Both men then entered the water and dove for a short time before coming to the surface.
When the adults resurfaced, they spoke to one another.
The minors believed the conversation was about going back down into the cave, and whether or not they had enough air in their tanks to dive, according to the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office said one of the divers is believed to have said he possibly had a leak in his tank.
Both men dove back down.
A short time later, the minors saw one of the divers come up to the surface. The diver was floating face down, which the minors believed he was doing on purpose, to look for the other diver.
They noticed there were no bubbles coming to the surface. The minors swam over to check on the man and he did not respond.
The three minors were able to get the diver to the dock, but were not able to lift him out of the water.
When two deputies arrived, they jumped in to the water and lifted the diver to the dock. The sheriff’s office said the diver was “obviously deceased.”
Deputies waited for the other diver to surface, knowing they had discussed the amount of air in their tanks.
The second diver did not surface and the sheriff’s office said it was assumed he likely experienced a problem.
Members of the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR) were on scene to attempt a recovery mission.
The IUCRR divers found the second diver approximately 137 feet below the surface. The sheriff’s office said the diver was also “obviously deceased.”
The diver was recovered and brought to the surface.
No divers had any obvious signs of trauma, according to a press release, and both appeared to have appropriate diving equipement.
It’s not currently known if their equipment was working properly.
The victims have been identified, with one man being identified as Todd McKenna, 52. The second diver has been identified as Stephen Gambrell, 63.
The investigation is ongoing.