Vortex Springs: Still No Sign of Missing Cave-Diver

By: WJHG
By: WJHG

Authorities have released the name of a diver, who's been missing since last week.

30-year old Ben McDaniel of Collierville, Tennessee, was last seen Wednesday night at Vortex Springs in Ponce de Leon.

Divers are continuing to search for his body in an underwater cave that runs more than16-hundred feet.

Specially trained search and recovery teams made their 4th dive Monday, trying to find 30-year old Ben McDaniel. The search turned up unsuccessful for the 4th day in a row.

McDaniel has been missing since Wednesday and the search has been on since Friday.

Authorities believe he died during an underwater cave at Vortex Springs.
They found what they believe to be McDaniel’s decompression tanks staged 300-ft into the cave, but still no sign of McDaniel.

The state park’s map of the cave ends at 1450 feet.
Divers have already explored the cave well past that, pressing more than 1600 feet into the cavern.

Even though diving is a buddy-sport, the diver who went in on the 4th attempt went alone, because the conditions are becoming dangerous

"Some divers feel when they go beyond the normal point in the cave, it's better for them to be alone because the cave is so small and confined, and one person can barely go through it to start with. Another person would make more difficulty in turning around, backing up, or exiting the cave. Also, you have the situation where the more you stir up the water-- you have less visibility because of the sediment at the bottom of the spring" explains Capt. Harry Hamilton with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.

Last week dive shop workers confirmed they did not issue McDaniel a key to the locked gate at the opening of the cave but his family members claim McDaniel had extensive cave diving experience. They also say a Vortex employee left the gate open for McDaniel, who they say was negotiating with the park management to become a diving instructor.

The more time that passes, the more stories begin to surface.
The question has even been asked if McDaniel is even in the cave at all.

"There are all kinds of possibilities he could be somewhere else. Again, we want to rule out this one location and it's an extremely hard location to get to. At this time we don't see any signs of foul play; we feel like it's important to check this last location in the cave. We're exploring other options and other ideas, however it appears he planned to make a dive deep into the cave and possibly didn’t make it out" Hamilton says.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office plans to bring in K-9 dogs to help with a more thorough search above ground.

Underwater recovery efforts will resume for a 5th attempt and authorities say they are even conducting a nationwide search for cave-diving experts.

McDaniel’s family is watching and waiting and hoping for answers.

There are 4-McDaniel siblings.

Paul, the youngest brother and an avid mountain climber, died of a stroke 2-years ago.

If Ben McDaniel is inside of the cave, he'll be the second to die an untimely death.

If you have any information that will help authorities in the McDaniel case, please call the Holmes County Sheriff's Office at 850-547-3681


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