How A Simple Mistake Leads To Tragedy For These Cave Divers

Scuba diving is great fun and a safe sport.  However, it does require preparation and the ability to stick to protocol.

Yes, even experienced divers are not granted a free-pass when it comes to following what might look like simple rules of protocol.  It is easy to just take for granted your scuba experience and capabilities when your are mentally distracted by the allure of the dive.  However, the stakes are very high ( your life) and you need to be mindful that, however mundane the rules may be, they have been formulated over years of examining diving incidents.  These rules and protocols are designed so that you don’t have to worry about making silly mistakes that lead to trouble.

For example, in the article referenced below,  a group of highly experienced divers out on what would be a routine cave dive experienced a tragic event when a pair (not one, but two) of the divers were overconfident and broke the key rule of attaching a jump line when they left the main line to explore an adjacent off-shoot.

Well, as simple as this mistake seems .. to make a long story short.  They went off the main line, didn’t hook a jump line, were separated from the other two divers. The other two divers decided to exit the cave ( removing the main line as they went, which s protoclo) and returned to the surface without the other overconfident divers. However, because there was no jump line, there was no way to know the other divers were still diving the cave they continued to remove the main line and surfaced only to find that their friends must still be in the cave.

Read on for more of the story below:


Both divers on the other team had been certified for cave diving by Brad, so he knew their skills and was comfortable with them. As a group, they agreed that the two less-experienced divers would lead, laying out the cave reel and controlling the dive. A cave reel is a strong, thin line attached outside — or just inside — a cave opening that divers use to find their way back to the surface. In general, divers know to never leave the reel without tying another line to it so they don’t get lost in the system.

When crafting a dive plan, cave divers determine their bottom time using the Rule of Thirds: allocating one third of their air for cave penetration, one third for the return to the surface, and the remaining one third for contingencies — though some prefer having even greater reserves. Brad and Lee agreed that when any member of the dive pair hit the Rule of Thirds and determined it was time to exit the cave circuit, they would all four begin making their way toward the surface.

Recent rains had churned up the water somewhat, fouling the visibility, but they all agreed that the conditions would make the dive more interesting.


The foursome entered the freshwater spring and made their way to the cave-system entrance. The lead diver secured his line outside the cave and confirmed that everyone was ready to enter before he moved forward. His buddy went second, followed by Brad. Lee entered the circuit last.

Visibility was worse than expected, but they still moved forward. Brad often said, “Any day diving is a good day,” so none of them considered aborting the dive at that point.

To keep from interfering with the first team, Brad and Lee held back a bit. When one of them noticed a small opening off to one side of the corridor, they decided to check it out. Both divers were carrying cave reels of their own, but neither pulled them out to secure a jump line to the one their friends had laid.

There is no way to know what happened next, but when the first buddy team turned the dive and began heading toward the surface, they realized Brad and Lee were no longer following them. They assumed there had been a problem and that Brad and Lee aborted the dive, so they continued reeling in their line as they left the cave. It was only after they returned to the surface that they realized Brad and Lee were missing. They knew the divers were still in the cave somewhere.

Brad and Lee’s bodies were later recovered 250 feet from the cave entrance. Both divers had completely exhausted their air supplies.

Read the full story on here.



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