Tampa Tribune reconstructs saga of lost diver Ben McDaniel of Memphis

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 Saturday unsuccessful.

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 can't.

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.

Sorenson 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.

In 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.


Divers should not risk their lives anymore to find Ben. Drain the vortex because I believe he is still in there!

Any chance he was abducted and murdered after he left the cave but before he got back to his car? It's been reported that he had a large amount of money in his wallet that he left in his car. I'm wondering who knew that and tried to get to it,,,,,perhaps a robbery gone wrong. Professionals seem certain that he's not in the cave. His family seems certain he's not willingly disappeared,,,,,,,,there aren't too many other options.

I feel for his family,,,,,they've already lost one son and now they don't know what happened to the other. I'm so very sorry for them.

Ben McDaniel was friends with Henry Vinson. Henry Vinson and Ben McDaniel flew in Tampa quite often. Ben McDaniel and Henry Vinson flew together and often would dive together. Why didn't anyone ever question Henry Vinson? After Ben McDaniel disappeared Henry Vinson apparently went back to Washington DC. Why didn't they ever question Henry Vinson?

To: John Anderson Would you please contact me at my email address---smcdani6@comcast.net ?


Shelby mcDaniel ( Ben's Father )

Question: How do you know Harry Vinson? Do You know how I can contact Him?

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