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  1. #1
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    FL - Ben McDaniel, 30, Ponce de Leon, 18 Aug 2010

    I saw this case on Disappeared tonight and didn't see a thread for it.

    Press release from Holmes County Sheriff's Office:
    The family of missing scuba diver Ben McDaniel is offering a $10,000 reward to any person that provides information that results in the location of Ben or his body.

    Ben McDaniel made preparations to make a cave dive on Wednesday August 18, 2010 at Vortex Spring in Ponce de Leon, Florida and has not been seen since. Ben was last seen entering the cave at 7:30 p.m. and his three decompression tanks were still in place for him to use during his ascent.

    Many internationally known cave divers have made very well planned recovery dives into the cave but still no sign of Ben.


    <snip>

    Now the McDaniel family is desperately hoping to find their beloved Ben who is pictured below. Anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of Ben McDaniel is asked to call the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office at 850-547-3681.
    Experts Don't Believe Missing Diver is Actually in Cave at Vortex Springs:
    It's been almost a month since 30-year old Tennessee native Ben McDaniel supposedly disappeared while cave-diving at Vortex Springs.

    After hundreds of man-hours searching the cave, some are beginning to doubt McDaniel's body is inside. Experts cave divers say the evidence just isn't adding up.

    <snip>

    Dive shop employees notified authorities two days later when they realized his vehicle, keys, and valuables were still in the same place he had left them. Since then, recovery efforts have been underway with some of the top diving experts who have gone as far as humanly possible inside the cave, and still no sign of McDaniel. This is leading some of them to believe he may not be in there at all.

    <snip>

    "We do not believe that he is in this cave. No one else could have gotten to the end of the cave or a perceived beyond without having extra bottles in the water to be able to get himself in that far. As small as the environment gets the further you get back, you can't carry those bottles through that. So he would have had to leave them and drop them, leave them and drop them until you get to the back; Because at the furthest point of this cave, the diver can't move with anything on" says Larry Green, the Regional Coordinator of the group.
    When a diver goes missing, a deep cave is scene of a deeper mystery:
    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.

    <snip>

    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.

    About 1,700 feet into the dive — 200 feet past the end of the map — Sorenson saw marks on the limestone where another recovery diver had been earlier. He inched ahead another 20 feet.

    If Ben McDaniel, who was larger than Sorenson, had come this far, there would be signs. There would be marks on the limestone where his helmet or tanks scraped the cave ceiling. There would be marks in the clay bottom because McDaniel would have shed his tanks and swum with one extended in front of his head. There would be extra tanks left behind for the journey out. If Ben were dead, there would be signs from nature, increased activity from aquatic scavengers.

    What Edd Sorenson saw was nothing. No limestone scrapes. No clay impressions. No feeding fish or eels.

    No Ben McDaniel.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    I watched this episode as well. The one thing that does point to Ben being in the cave was that the final diver, the woman from Australia, did find what is believed to be Ben's shovel way back further into the caves than any of the other divers had gone. I think she was smaller and was able to go further. She also said that there is a slight possibility he could be stuck in a crevice, as divers can panic and try to crawl into small spaces when running out of air, i.e. Personally, I do think he is in there, one way or another.

    It was never explained why he was carrying over $1000 cash, which was in his truck. That seems like an awful lot of cash to leave in your wallet for a day of diving, but may be unrelated.

    What security footage was available showed nothing unusual for the day he vanished.

    It was kind of disturbing to learn that he was not certified for cave-diving, yet had found a way to undo the "gate" to the caves underwater, since he could not get a key. Yet the day he disappeared, the employee did give him a key or let him in, as he said that Ben would have been in more danger the way he was getting in on his own, by going under the bars or something.

    It is very strange that he has not been found, but since no one has been able to get to the end of the tunnel, I guess it is possible he is there. If someone was determined enough...plus three of his tanks were found, so if he shed those, he would not have taken up so much space.

    He HAD been thru depression over the death of his brother and the huge financial issues he had suffered and was still dealing with, although his family feels certain that he was not suicidal.

    In any event, a very sad mystery.
    Just my opinion, of course.

  3. #3
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    Caught about half of this. The question I had/have is why didn't they resort to robotic search earlier and more? They are able to send robot devices equipped with 360 degree view angles down into ship wrecks and have them move about fairly readily. This tunnel looked like easy-peasy for such a device.

  4. #4
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    Excellent post. :-)

    I am intrigued by this case....all signs point to him being in the cave....but then you think about it for a while, and it doesn't add up.

    I don't think he intentionally went in without enough air, but he could have
    decided to go farther into the cave, and not realized he wouldn't be able to get back out.

    As for the disappearing to start a new life, I don't think he would do that to his parents, especially after the loss of his brother, and also, there would likely be *some* sightings of him.
    Justice for Jonbenet!

  5. #5
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    I watched this tonight, very intriguing case. One of my first thoughts was that he died accidentally in the cave and was found by someone who worked there, and then disposed of for liability reasons. The cadaver dogs did hit on the water and the shore, so I do suspect he passed away. The employee left the gate open for him even though he knew he wasn't certified. I think they may have been afraid of a lawsuit.

    From all of the articles about cave diving it seems clear that he is not in that cave. This is a very straight forward cave and the best cave divers in the world have searched. If they say he's not there, I don't believe he is. The shovel could be anyone's. Many divers carry the same kind of shovel. We don't even know if it had been there long.

    I'm on my phone right now, but I need to read a bit more about this. I'll be back tomorrow with more thoughts, I'm sure

  6. #6
    I'm pretty sure this is a cover up by the diving company. They don't want a lawsuit since someone opened the gate for him. I think the faimly kind of senses that too. I hope they interveiwed the workers there thoroughly. So sad.

  7. #7
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    Some interesting details in this Tennessee-based article from a month ago.

    Theories about Collierville diver's disappearance swirl in vortex of unanswered questions:
    Early evening, just before sunset on Aug. 18, 2010, Ben suited up, strapped on his tanks and submerged.

    Two divers passed him as they were swimming out.

    One of them Eduardo Taran, a commercial diver who works for Vortex, knew Ben was sneaking into the cave by jimmying the gate. Only certified divers are given a key. Taran, who came to know Ben in the weeks he was at Vortex, swam back to the cave and used his key to open it for Ben. Later, Taran and his fellow diver were given polygraph tests. They passed.

    Sometimes Ben stayed down so long in the cave that Taran would sit on the bank waiting for bubbles in the glassy water, a signal that Ben was decompressing. No one watched for bubbles on Aug. 18.

    <snip>

    With all the experienced divers saying Ben's not in the cave, the McDaniels seized on a darker fate: foul play. They hired Lynn-Marie Carty, a Florida private investigator who operates a business called Reunite People, to explore that.

    She's gathered criminal records of several people associated with Vortex, including its former owner, Lowell Kelly, who died under suspicious circumstances last month. When Ben disappeared, Kelly was awaiting trial on charges that he drove a temporary employee into the woods, accused him of stealing $30,000. Kelly beat him with a baseball bat. Kelly pleaded no contest and was given a fine and probation.

    Carty is frustrated that authorities aren't aggressively investigating the case as a homicide.

    "There is just as much reason to look above the water for Ben's body as there was to look below it in the cave," Carty said.
    ETA: So it appears his parents do suspect wrong-doing by the resort. Though I think it's more likely that Ben died while diving and an employee recovered his body and disposed of it, as opposed to foul play. IMO.
    Last edited by mayqueen; 03-20-2012 at 08:45 AM. Reason: add thought

  8. #8
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    Why would they dispose of his body? Other people have drowned while scuba diving...it would not have been that unusual. If they wanted to cover up the fact that they let him into the cave, which they admitted, they could have just moved his body in the regular part of the pond, that would be a lot easier than getting him out of the water without being seen by witnesses or on tape. I do think the shovel was his, and that somehow, he is in the inner-most parts of the cave. JMO
    Just my opinion, of course.

  9. #9
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    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...m+harbor&hl=en

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...m+harbor&hl=en

    These are both archive stories regarding a once popular spot for scuba diving and swimming in my town. Grew up swimming there with my friends. Interesting stories about chemicals that can effect divers at certain levels that they desend to and about underground tunnels.

    Wanted to point out the underground tunnels. Cant find the infamous story from my youth (after these news articles time frame). A diver went down in Blue Sink, past the gate that is far below and was sucked through an underground tunnel in the cavern and ended up being found in Crystal Beach.

    The point is, here in Florida these caves are formed from sink holes. Sink holes are bottomless they say. That is because they lead to more caverns and tunnels beneath which lead eventually to another body of water. Not sure if it is through the auquafer or some other spring. What Im saying is, it is quite possible that he did parrish there but was taken somewhere else through a cavern or tunnel from this dive hole to another spring.
    Cindi Lou


    Some people may consider me crazy, I say I'm just inspired.

  10. #10
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    Here is a link with a map of all the springs and rivers in the area
    http://www.floridasprings.us/2007_08_01_archive.html
    Cindi Lou


    Some people may consider me crazy, I say I'm just inspired.


  11. #11
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    In this wiki article is states that Vortex leads to the Artisian Aquifer, aka the Florida Aquifer. So it is possible that this spring is "bottomless" and there are tunnels or some sort of cavern that leads to it.

    Vortex Spring - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Last edited by KateB; 04-03-2015 at 08:52 AM. Reason: repair url tag.
    Cindi Lou


    Some people may consider me crazy, I say I'm just inspired.

  12. #12
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    Possible theories:

    (a) Ben died while diving in the cave, unintentionally
    (b) Ben died while diving in the cave, intentionally (suicide)
    (c) Ben died but not while diving, whether by foul play or accident
    (d) Ben staged things to look like he died in the cave, but took his life somewhere else
    (e) Ben staged his own death and is still alive somewhere

    I go back and forth on what I think happened. But I did some reading in some SCUBA communities yesterday, and many/most divers firmly believe in theory (e). I'm not a diver so I don't know anything about the equipment needed for cave diving, but apparently the tanks found in the cave were not decompression tanks like you would need. They weren't full and contained only air as opposed to a gas mix. Ben had allegedly been studying cave diving extensively so would've/should've known he needed a gas mix. ('Disappeared' did mention that, but I didn't really understand, so I spent some time this morning reading about breathing gases.)

    The diver who found the shovel, Jill Heinerth, has made a film about the search called "Ben's Vortex". I'm looking forward to watching it. This case is just so fascinating to me.

  13. #13
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    Another thing to consider. Alligators have been seen at Vortex Springs.
    Cindi Lou


    Some people may consider me crazy, I say I'm just inspired.

  14. #14
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    Watched this today on disappeared my question is when someone went to look for him was the gate unlocked ? If the worker unlocked it for him wouldn't they go back and lock it when Ben was done? So no one else would get in there without signing in?

  15. #15
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    I didn't understand where he got $1000 found in his wallet. Supposedly, he was broke.
    IMO

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