'Mount Everest of Cave Diving' Claims More Lives

2 divers found dead in Eagle's Nest caves on Monday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2016 12:03 PM CDT
Updated Oct 18, 2016 12:21 PM CDT
'Mount Everest of Cave Diving' Claims More Lives
Divers explore Eagle's Nest.   (YouTube)

A sign posted at the entrance to a dangerous underwater cave system in Florida reads, "Stop: Prevent Your Death!" next to an image of the grim reaper, reports NDTV. It didn't stop Patrick Peacock, 53, and Chris Rittenmeyer, 38, whose bodies were recovered from the Eagle's Nest dive area in Weeki Wachee on Monday, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The experienced Fort Lauderdale divers had decided to explore the cave system—up to 300 feet deep with a mile of passages and incredible views—around 2pm Sunday just as they'd done several times before, including on Friday, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. But an hour later, the pair failed to meet up as planned with a less experienced diver who'd stayed close to the surface, Hernando County police say.

That diver alerted police around 6pm Sunday, and his friends' bodies were found close together Monday in a "very dangerous and complex area of the cave system" at a depth of about 260 feet, authorities say. Peacock's wife says the pair were "prepared" and "excited." However, "they may have lost their line, they may have lost visibility, they may have been restrictive, there may have been gear issues," a man who's logged 50 dives at the site tells Fox 13. "More than likely it was a series of issues." At least 10 people have now lost their lives at Eagle's Nest, known as the "Mount Everest of cave diving" for challenging even the most experienced divers. The latest deaths have renewed calls for the caves to be closed to the public, as they were from 1999 to 2003. (A father and son died at the site on Christmas Day 2013.)

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