DADE CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — The cave diving community lost a true modern-day explorer this past week. Brett Hemphill of Dade City was diving with his team of explorers with the Karst Underwater Research Group in Phantom Springs Cave in west Texas on Oct 4.
This cave is believed to be one of the deepest systems in the United States. The team began their exploration in 2012 and was excited to continue to explore a new section of the system.
According to the Karst Underwater Research Facebook page, Brett Hemphill was diving with Andy Pitkin. The experienced pair were exploring a lead further into the cave that started at a depth of 450 feet of water and about 7,300 feet back.
KUR went on to write that Brett can be seen on footage tying off the guideline toward the exit before becoming separated. While Andy searched for Brett for some time, he eventually had to surface and hope that Brett had already made his way out.
Unfortunately, Brett never surfaced. His body was recovered four days later, after searching and then careful planning to get him out. The recovery involved a number of dives with specialized recovery divers who traveled thousands of miles to assist.
In a follow-up post, Andy Pitkin wrote “When we have all the information and analyzed it, we will issue a statement.”
Brett Hemphill was the President and co-founder of the Karst Underwater Research group. His mission was to explore and map out never-before-seen sections of the underground aquifer. While cave diving began as a hobby for him, he told WFLA’s Amanda Holly in a past interview that his passion for exploration has changed over the years. It morphed from an adrenaline rush early on into a feeling of responsibility for other people to see to encourage protection for our springs and aquifer.
His passion was contagious when he talked about his diving. Brett loved what he did and enjoyed sharing what he found inside the underground caves. He has explored many caves all over the world, above and below the water line. He loved to remind people that, “the river continues” beneath our feet.