WEEKI WACHEE GARDENS, Fla. — Two men drowned while exploring Buford Springs Cave and, just prior to their last dive, may have indicated to a few nearby teenagers that they didn't have enough air in their tanks, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies were called just before 12:30 p.m. Wednesday to Buford Springs Cave in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park to investigate a possible drowning.
The sheriff's office said one of three teens made the 911 call. They arrived at the park around 9 a.m. to swim and hang out by the water.
A couple of hours later, deputies said 52-year-old Todd McKenna and 63-year-old Stephen Gambrell arrived and chatted with the teens as they got ready to dive.
After diving for a short time, they resurfaced, and the teens told deputies they believed the men were talking about going back down into the cave. They also debated about whether they had enough air or not in their takes to complete their dive, the sheriff's office said.
Deputies believe one of the divers may have mentioned he possibly had a leak in his tank.
Shortly after the two men talked, they reportedly resumed their dive.
The teens told deputies that a while later, they saw one of the divers come to the surface and was floating face down. At first, the teens said they thought he was floating on purpose to look for the other diver who hadn't resurfaced yet.
However, not long after that, the sheriff's office says the teens said they noticed no air bubbles were coming to the surface like before. So they swam over to check on the man, but he didn't respond.
The sheriff's office said the teens were able to get the diver to the dock but couldn't get him out of the water.
That's when deputies were called in. When they arrived, the deputies were able to go into the water and bring the diver onto the dock.
He was dead, deputies said.
Deputies said they waited for the other diver to resurface, thinking because the divers had talked about how much air was left in their tanks, he would resurface soon due to running out of air.
But he never did.
Members of the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR) were called to the scene to begin looking for the diver's body. They found him about 137 feet below the surface. He had also died.
The sheriff's office said neither diver had any "obvious signs of trauma" and appeared to have the "appropriate equipment." Deputies said they aren't sure if the divers' equipment was working properly.
Both men's bodies were turned over to the medical examiner.
The sheriff's office said its investigation is ongoing.