The Tampa Tribune features today a long, detailed takeout
on the story of Ben McDaniel, the Memphian who apparently died
after he went missing
during a dangerous diving expedition at Vortex Spring in Ponce de Leon, Fla. I'll provide some excerpts here, but I do recommend reading the whole story; it's worth your time:
On the recovery efforts in the claustrophobic cave where McDaniel dived:
Edd Sorenson stood aboard a yacht in the Bahamas, in the middle of an
expedition, when his wife texted. Diver missing. Searches Friday and
If there's a go-to recovery diver in
Florida, it's Sorenson, a lean and muscular scuba-shop owner who has
notched somewhere close to 2,500 dives. Sorenson goes where others
He was bombarded with calls from recovery divers when he got back on Sunday.
Nobody without training could have gone farther than I got, one diver said.
I almost died in there, said another.
Even an official with the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery told him not to go.
suited up on Monday. To save air, he used an underwater scooter to
quickly maneuver through the tunnel. Sorenson abandoned the scooter when
the cave narrowed and worked his way deeper, through tiny passages,
like shimmying under a car, under water. At tight restrictions, belly on
the floor and back to the limestone ceiling, Sorenson had to turn his
head sideways to squeeze through.
On the lead-up to McDaniel's fateful journey to Florida:
Shelby, 68, and Patty, 62, had just seen Ben on Monday in Memphis. He
was loving the Florida sabbatical, diving at every opportunity and
trying to land a job as an instructor. He had taken a survey course and
was mapping the cave at Vortex.
He seemed happier than he'd been
in two years. Back home, he'd faced hardship: his construction company
failed, he lost his house and his wife left. What hurt the most was when
his brother died.
Paul was 22, the youngest. He loved Ben, looked up to him. The two were always running off together to go rock climbing.
late 2008, Ben found Paul unconscious at home from a stroke. He tried
to clear Paul's air passage, then sat with him in the hospital, then
mourned him as they played Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah at the service.
He struggled to shake the grief. Something as simple as a Citizen Cope song would send him to his room in tears.
But that sadness seemed to be passing.
Closer to home, McDaniel's parents were to hold a benefit today to raise money for a reward for divers willing to brave Vortex Spring to find their son's body.