2 divers die at submerged Florida cave site, cops say

The bodies of two divers were found in a submerged cave in Florida, after a group of teenagers alerted authorities to a man floating face down in the water, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators identified one of the divers as 52-year-old Todd Richard McKenna. The other man’s identity is being withheld pending notification from his family, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

“Neither of the divers showed any obvious signs of trauma and both appeared to have the proper diving equipment,” the sheriff’s office said.

“We don’t know at the moment if all the equipment was working properly. Both victims were handed over to the medical examiner.

A vehicle linked to the divers was found near the cave, which has been identified as Buford Springs Cave in Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park. The site is about 55 miles north of Tampa in the Weeki Wachee area.

Investigators say a 911 call was made at 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday June 22 by one of three teenagers, aged 15 and 17, who watched divers enter the cave pool at 11 a.m. .

The divers surfaced and then returned to the cave, although one complained of a leak in his air tank, the teenagers told authorities.

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Several members of the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR) responded to the scene to attempt a recovery mission for the second diver. These highly specialized cave divers entered the water and began the search for the second diver. Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Photo

“A short time later, the juveniles observed one of the divers come to the surface. The diver was floating face down, which the youths believed he was doing on purpose, to look for the other diver who had not yet surfaced,” officials said.

“Soon the juveniles noticed that there were no bubbles rising to the surface like there had been earlier. The juveniles swam out to check on him and received no response. The three juveniles were able to get the diver to the dock, but were unable to pull him out of the water.

He was later confirmed dead by two deputies who arrived in response to the 911 call. Deputies then waited for the second diver.

“As time passed and the second diver did not surface, it was assumed that he most likely encountered some type of problem in the cave,” officials said.

“Several members of the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR) responded to the scene to attempt a recovery mission for the second diver. … IUCRR divers located the second diver approximately 137 feet below the Apparently deceased, the diver was recovered and brought to the surface.

An investigation into the deaths is ongoing, officials said.

The men died in a spring fed 150 deep underground pool and ranked among “Florida’s finest dive sites,” reports The Florida Guidebook.

However, it is only recommended for advanced divers, due to the small swimming area “hard to reach (and) possibly dangerous”, the guide says.

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