UPDATED INFORMATION – 06-23-22 1453 Hours
By PATRICK HRAMIKA: A Next-of-kin notification has been made for the second victim of the Buford Springs diving accident. He is identified as Stephen Roderick Gambrell DOB/07-24-1958.
Three teens swimming at the popular water hole reportedly heard one of the divers saying he thought he had a leak in his SCUBA tank as they resurfaced. The divers then resumed diving. The teens noticed the first diver surface afterward, but not was moving. The juveniles attempted to help him to shore, but could not turn him over or get him on the dock. The juveniles called 911, who pronounced the first diver dead at the scene. The other diver was later found approximately 137 feet below the surface.
UPDATED INFORMATION – 06-23-22 1150 Hours
By HCSO: On 06-22-22 at approximately 12:20 p.m., a 9-1-1 call was placed to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office regarding a possible Drowning. The location provided was “Buford Springs Cave” which lies in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park at 13243 Commercial Way in Weeki Wachee. The 9-1-1 caller was one of three juveniles (ages 15, 15, and 17) who arrived at the park around 9 a.m., to swim and hang out by the water.
At approximately 11 a.m., two adult males arrived. As the adults prepared for their dive, they chatted with the juveniles. Both adults then entered the water and dove for a short time before resurfacing.
When the adults resurfaced, they engaged in conversation with one another. The juveniles believed the discussion was in regards to going back down into the “cave” and whether or not 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. After a short time, both adults dove back down under the water.
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.
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.
Upon arrival, Deputies N. Burburan and J. Balafas jumped into the water, and together, lifted the diver onto the dock. The diver was obviously deceased.
Deputies waited for the other diver to come to the surface. Knowing the divers discussed the amount of air in their tanks, deputies believed he would be surfacing any minute, as he would be running out of air. 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.
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.
The IUCRR divers located the second diver approximately 137 feet below the surface. Obviously deceased, the diver was recovered and brought to the surface.
Neither of the divers had any obvious signs of trauma and both appeared to have the appropriate diving equipment. It is unknown at this time if all the equipment was working properly.
Both victims were turned over to the Medical Examiner.
Detectives located identification, belonging to both victims, inside the vehicle in which they arrived. Next-of-kin notifications were made with the first victim’s family.
The first victim has been identified as Todd Richard McKenna DOB/04-20-1970.
The investigation continues.
BUFORD SPRINGS – An apparent diving accident has left one dead and another diver missing. Numerous fire and rescue units are on the scene. No further information is available at this time.