Two cave divers were found dead in a Florida lake last week after three teenagers tried to save them, authorities said.
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said one of the teenagers alerted police around 12:20 p.m. Wednesday to the possible drowning in the Buford Springs Cave, which is located in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park in Weeki Wachee.
The caller said he was one of three teens, ages 15, 15 and 17, who witnessed a pair of divers arrive at the park around 11 a.m.
According to the teenager, the men dove for a short time before resurfacing. The men then launched into a discussion about going back down into the “cave,” and whether they had enough air in their tanks to complete their dive.
“One of the divers is believed to have mentioned that he possibly had a leak in his tank,” authorities said. “After a short time, both adults dove back down under the water.”
Not long after, the teenage swimmers saw one of the divers come to the surface and observed him floating face down, which they thought he was doing on purpose to look for his companion underwater.
But then the boys noticed that there were no bubbles coming to the surface to indicate breathing.
“The juveniles swam over to check on him and received no response,” the office recounted. “The three juveniles were able to get the diver over to the dock, but were unable to lift him out of the water.”
The teens summoned help, and deputies who responded to the lake were able to lift the diver onto a rock, but he was already dead by then.
When the second diver failed to resurface, several members of the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR) responded and found him 137 feet below the surface. He, too, was deceased.
“Neither of the divers had any obvious signs of trauma and both appeared to have the appropriate diving equipment,” the press release from the sheriff’s office stated. “It is unknown at this time if all the equipment was working properly.”
The agency later identified the divers as 52-year-old Todd McKenna and 63-year-old Stephen Gambrell.
Buford Springs is a network of underground caverns with a 167-foot descent, according to a guide on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. It contains twisting passages within the caverns; divers must register and obtain authorization from park officials before going down into a potentially dangerous situation.
“Even experienced cave divers have perished here. Underwater caves, beautiful as they are, do not forgive mistakes,” the guide warns.