Posted by R Bear on February 20, 2001 at 13:30:41:
In Reply to: Re: Unpracticed makes imperfect. Weekend Report posted by MHK on February 20, 2001 at 11:29:43:
Two die in Suwannee cave dive
Cavern like 'maze' is hard to escape
By Gordon Jackson
Times-Union staff writer
KINGSLAND -- A scuba diving accident has killed a Camden County High School senior and a Kingsland man whose bodies were found yesterday more than 500 feet inside an underwater spring cave in Suwannee County, Fla.
Authorities with the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office said they found the bodies of Mark Anthony Granger, 19, and William Anthony Ridenour, 34, inside the cave in Royal Springs.
Both men were reported missing about 5:30 p.m. Sunday after the dive instructor who had just certified the two men earlier in the day for open water diving had his son call authorities that the two men had gone into an underwater cave and did not return.
Granger's body was recovered at 10:50 a.m. yesterday in about 40 feet of water about 500 feet inside the cave, said Maj. Les Hall, undersheriff with the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office.
Divers found Ridenour's body at 4:54 p.m. about 50 feet further inside the cave, which is "like a maze" with some twisting passageways so narrow Hall said a diver would have to remove their tanks to enter.
Poor visibility from silt in the underwater cavern hampered the search effort to find Ridenour, Hall said. Rescue workers searched the caves until 10 p.m. Sunday looking for both men, then resumed the search early yesterday morning.
Granger and Ridenour accompanied Christopher Whitlock, an instructor at Diver's Den in St. Marys to Royal Springs. The springs are located near the Suwannee River, about six miles west of O'Brien, Hall said.
The three men, along with Whitlock's 12-year-old son, Jeremy, were diving for artifacts at the spring's bottom when the accident occurred, Hall said.
Granger and Ridenour got separated from Whitlock and his son after the two men had borrowed flashlights to dive to the deep end of the spring, Hall said. Whitlock noticed silt stirred up near the entrance to an underwater cave and entered the cavern a short distance until the pathway split, Hall said.
While Whitlock's son called police, the instructor returned to the cave entrance, where he beat on rocks with a light to give the missing divers a beacon to find their way to safety. Whitlock beat on the rocks underwater about 45 minutes until a cavern rescue diver arrived to assist in the search, Hall said.
Granger's father, Donnie, said his son took diving lessons because he planned to open a charter boat and diving business after his graduation at Camden County High School this spring. "It's devastating," Donnie Granger said. "He should have known better." Donnie Granger said he had not spoken to Whitlock, who was still at the accident scene yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Ridenour's family declined to comment on the accident.
Wayne LaBarre, co-owner of Aqua Adventures, a St. Marys dive shop, said he knew the instructor who accompanied the two men to the spring and said Whitlock was a competent instructor who emphasized safety to his students.
LaBarre, who is not certified for cave diving, said he warns divers to avoid caves at all costs until they undergo the extensive courses for cave diving certification.
"Don't. That's the advice," LaBarre said. "A lot of people have been killed in caves. Unless you know the waters you can get into trouble."
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