Teens find floating body, revealing 2 divers died exploring submerged Florida cave

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

Investigators identified the divers as Todd Richard McKenna, 52, and Stephen Roderick Gambrell, 63.

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

“It is unknown at this time if all the equipment was working properly. Both victims were turned over to the Medical Examiner.”

A vehicle linked to the divers was found near the cave, which was identified as Buford Springs Cave in the 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. Wednesday, June 22, by one of three teens, ages 15 and 17, who watched the divers enter the cave pool at 11 a.m.

The divers resurfaced, then returned to the cave, despite one complaining he might have a leak in his air tank, the teens told authorities.

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.
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.

“A short while later, the juveniles observed one of the divers come to the surface. The diver was floating face down, which the juveniles believed he was doing purposely, to look for the other diver who had yet to resurface,” officials said.

“Before long, the juveniles noticed there were no bubbles coming to the surface, like there had been earlier. The juveniles swam over to check on him and received no response. The three juveniles were able to get the diver over to the dock, but were unable to lift him out of the water.”

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

“As time passed and the second diver did not surface, it was surmised that he most likely experienced 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. ... The IUCRR divers located the second diver approximately 137 feet below the surface. Obviously 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 cave pool that is 150-deep and ranked among “the most beautiful scuba sites in Florida,” The Florida Guidebook reports.

However, it is recommended only for advanced divers, due to having a small swimming area that is “difficult to reach (and) possibly dangerous,” the guidebook says.

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