Two divers found dead in ‘Mt. Everest’ of cave diving; most inexperienced diver survives

The Eagle’s Nest, known by some as the Mount Everest of cave diving, is a large underwater labyrinth of caves known to be deadly and only recommended for the extremely advanced in cave diving.

But the cave system located near Weeki Wachee, Florida, can be dangerous even for the most experienced divers, as it proved Sunday.

Three friends drove from Fort Lauderdale to the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge for a three-day dive in the Eagle’s Nest, also known as the Lost Sink, according to WFLA and FOX News.

On Sunday, they entered the water at 2 p.m. with the plan of meeting at a predetermined location at 3 p.m.

The cave system has a mile of passages with one that descends more than 300 feet.

Patrick Peacock and Chris Rittenmeyer, both of whom had dived in the Eagle’s Nest several times before, explored the deeper part of the caves while Justin Blakely, the least experienced of the three, agreed to stay closer to the surface.

Blakely arrived at the predetermined location at 3 p.m., but the others didn’t show. Blakely checked the location every 30 minutes until finally calling 911 at 6 p.m. to report them missing.

RELATED: Veteran scuba diver dies in Blue Hole caves that had been sealed for 40 years

A group of rescue divers failed to locate the two divers Sunday night. A second group of rescue divers entered the water at 9 a.m. Monday and found them near each other in 260 feet of water.

More from WFLA:

The divers were in a very dangerous and complex area of the cave system.

The rescue divers assisted in removing the bodies from the water.  Both bodies were turned over to the Medical Examiner’s Office. The volunteer team of divers returned to the cave system on Monday to recover Peacock and Rittenmeyer’s equipment.

Jeff Tobey is an experienced diver with Scuba West Dive Shop in Hudson and says the Eagle’s Nest cave system is not suited for most divers.

“It is absolutely gorgeous, but it’s deep and a complex cave system so it’s only suited for people who have that training and experience,” said Tobey.

Since 1981, 10 deaths have been reported in the Eagle’s Nest. On Christmas Day 2013, Darrin Spivey, 35, and his 15-year-old son drowned in the Eagle’s Nest as they tried out diving equipment they received for Christmas.

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