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Two men die while cave diving in Florida

A group of teenagers saw the divers go underwater with air tanks Wednesday. One later surfaced but was unresponsive, the sheriff's office said.
“Buford Springs Cave” which lies in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park in Weeki Wachee, Fla.
Buford Springs Cave in Chassahowitzka Wildlife Park in Weeki Wachee, Fa.Hernando County Sheriff's Office / via Facebook

Two cave divers died in a possible drowning in Florida, authorities said Thursday.

Sheriff’s deputies were called about 12:20 p.m. Wednesday to what was described as Buford Springs Cave in a wildlife park after teenagers saw one of the divers floating facedown, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

At first the teens thought the diver was just looking for the second diver underwater, but they then swam over to check on him, and he was unresponsive, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

After deputies arrived, rescue divers went into the water and found the second diver’s body at a depth of about 137 feet, the sheriff’s office said.

The divers were identified as Todd Richard McKenna, 52, and Stephen Roderick Gambrell, 63.

The two men arrived at the underwater cave at around 11 a.m., the three teenagers told deputies.

The teenagers thought that they heard the two men talking about whether they had enough air in their tanks to finish a dive and that one may have said he thought he might have a leak in his air tank, the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office said that the divers appeared to have the appropriate equipment but that it was not known whether it was working properly. The incident is under investigation, it said.

The bodies were turned over to the medical examiner’s office, which had not determined the cause of death Thursday evening.

Buford Spring is part of a network of underwater caves in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, according to guide materials by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Buford Spring has a 167-foot descent and is dangerous even for experienced divers, the commission says.

The Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area is about 40 miles north of Tampa, on Florida's Gulf coast.