Teenage swimmers witness two divers drown in murky waters of ‘hazardous’ lake

A group of teenagers swimming in a Florida wildlife park made a grisly discovery after two divers got into difficulties in a lake with a maze-like network of underwater caves.

The three teens, a 17-year-old and two 15-year-olds, saw two cave divers arrive at around 11am on Wednesday, June 22, and had chatted to the men as they got their equipment ready.

Buford Springs Cave, set in the 31-square-mile Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area near Tampa, Florida, is considered "hazardous" even for experienced divers, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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The two divers – named as Stephen Roderick Gambrell, 63, and 52-year-old Todd Richard McKenna – carried out one short dive before resurfacing, when the young swimmers had heard them talking to each other.

One of the men appeared to mention a problem with their air tanks, one of the young swimmers later told police.

Later, the trio saw Gambrell return to the surface, where he floated face-down as if he might be looking for something under the water.

But after a short time, the teenagers noticed that there were no bubbles going from his scuba gear.

They swam over to Gambrell, to check he was OK, and realised that he wasn’t breathing. They dragged the unconscious scuba-diver to the side of the lake but were unable to haul him out of the water.

They dialled the emergency number, 911, and two police arrived. They managed to pull Gambrell out of the water but he was sadly dead by that time. They then called for divers to check on McKenna.

Several divers from to International Underwater Cave Rescue & Recovery later arrived, and found McKenna’s body at a depth of around 140 feet.

"The juveniles believed the discussion was in regards to going back down into the 'cave' and whether or not they had enough air in their tanks to complete their dive," a statement from the local the sheriff's office said.

”One of the divers is believed to have mentioned that he possibly had a leak in his tank."

"Neither of the divers had any obvious signs of trauma and both appeared to have the appropriate diving equipment. It is unknown at this time if all the equipment was working properly," the sheriff's office added.


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