WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man wants the state to close an underwater cave system after his son and grandson died there in a diving accident on Christmas Day.
Chester Spivey Jr. says the 300-foot deep Eagle Nest Sink cave in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area is too dangerous for diving. Thirty-five-year-old Darrin Spivey and his 15-year-old son, Dillon Sanchez, were found dead Wednesday.
The Tampa Tribune (http://bit.ly/1kPQREA) reports that at least six other divers have died in the vast underwater cave system since 1981.
“I wish they would close it,” Chester Spivey Jr. told the newspaper. “I wouldn’t want to see anyone else die. It’s just too dangerous.”
State wildlife officials, however, said they have no plans to close the underwater cave, which diving enthusiasts have described as the “Grand Canyon” or “Mount Everest” of cave diving.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District had banned diving at Eagle Nest Sink in 1999 when it bought the land, located about an hour and a half north of downtown Tampa. But cave divers lobbied to reopen the area, and the state lifted the ban in July 2003 when a management plan for the site was developed.
Located deep in the woods, it looks like a small, unassuming pond from Earth’s surface, but underneath is a network of huge chambers.
One diving website, aquaviews.net, named Eagle Nest Sink “one of the top three extreme dives in the world.”
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sign near the pond entrance to the cave reads: “Cave diving in this area is extremely dangerous — even life threatening!! Do not dive unless you are a certified cave diver!!”
According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Spivey was a certified diver; however, he was not a certified cave diver. Sanchez was not a certified diver.
Holly King, Darrin Spivey’s fiancee, told authorities that Sanchez had received new diving equipment for Christmas, and the boy wanted to try it out with his father.
King called deputies after the two did not return home.
A recovery diver found Sanchez first, inside a cave at 67 feet. Two more recovery divers went to the cave and found Spivey at 127 feet.
Officials said that the divers’ equipment will be checked and deputies will continue to investigate.
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