updated 5/2/2007 2:35:06 PM ET 2007-05-02T18:35:06

The manager of a commercial tourist cavern in the Texas Hill Country drowned when he swam into a nearby cave to try to improve its drainage, friends and co-workers said.

Thomas Summers III, 44, died Monday during an attempt to improve the water outflow of Deadman’s Cave, which is connected via tunnels to Cave Without a Name, about 30 miles north of San Antonio.

Summers, a father of four, had moved to Kendall County in 2004 to work with his father managing Cave Without a Name, which draws about 15,000 visitors annually.

Co-worker Mike Burrell said recent rains raised the water table and submerged the outer reaches of Cave Without a Name. The water didn’t affect regular tours.

Summers and a tour guide went into Deadman’s Cave to look for anything impeding water outflow, Burrell said. Summers swam into a section where the cave ceiling was just inches above the water. After hearing a sputtering sound from Summers, the tour guide got no response to his shouts and went for help, Burrell said.

Rescue crews used pumps to lower the water level so a cave diver could retrieve Summers’ body without a breathing apparatus.

Deadman’s Cave got its name in the mid-1980s when someone found skeletal remains there, Burrell said.

He said Cave Without a Name is closed indefinitely.

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