A father and son who went diving on Christmas Day with new dive equipment were found dead in an underwater cave at a Hernando County wildlife refuge.
Holly King called the Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Christmas after her fiance, Darrin Spivey, and his 15-year-old son, Dillon Sanchez, didn’t return home after a planned dive.
Sanchez had received new diving equipment for Christmas, and the pair wanted to try it out, King told deputies. The Brooksville pair had told King that they were going to dive the 300-foot deep Eagle Nest Sink cave in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area in western Hernando County.
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 Sheriff’s office, the 35-year-old Spivey was a certified diver; however, he was not a certified cave diver. Sanchez was not a certified diver, authorities said.
Certified cave diver Becky Kagan Schott told The Tampa Tribune that the signs don’t stop inexperienced divers from jumping into what appears to be a secluded pond and exploring the dangerous network of underwater caves that go as deep as 300 feet. She said it attracts experienced cave divers come from around the world.
“A lot of people spend years and years working their way up to be able to dive that cave system,” she told The Tribune.” It’s an honor to be able to dive there.”
WUSF Reporter Mary Shedden contributed to this story.