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Cave diver dies in Ginnie Springs accident

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Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2009 12:00 am

A 58-year-old man died while cave diving at Ginnie Springs in an area known as the Devil's Eye on Friday.

According to a Gilchrist County Sheriff's report, the diver and his partner, Gary Hildman, were exploring an area in Devil's Eye called Henry's Crack when they separated.

Hildman breached the surface but didn't see his partner, according to the report.

Hildman notified police at about 12:50 p.m. when the man hadn't surfaced as expected.

The submerged body was recovered at about 4:26 p.m.

The body was then transported to the Medical Examiner's Office in Gainesville to determine cause of death, according to the report.

The man's name and further details are being withheld until notification of his next of kin.

Since 1960, there have been more than 431 deaths as a result of inexperienced divers pushing themselves beyond their training, according to the cave diving branch of the National Speleological Society Web site.

Larry Green, a professional cave-diving instructor with more than 25 years of experience, said most diving fatalities occur because divers go "too far, too fast, too soon."

He said many divers get over-excited about exploring and fail to watch out for things like air management or keeping a straight sight on open waters.

Green added that those experienced in open water diving should also keep in mind that cave diving is a totally different sport.

Often, he said, open-water divers may want to explore a cave or wreck and then become confused when they go beyond the reach of natural light or stir up bottom dirt, loosing visibility.

There are plenty of places in the Gainesville area to receive training.

The National Association for Cave Diving, which formed as a result of analyzing accident reports, originated in Gainesville. They've been training divers at their local facility since 1968, Green said.

"I'd advise anyone interested in cave diving to seek out an experienced diver to teach you the proper techniques," Green said.

For information on diving safety, visit the National Association for Cave Diving Web site, safecavediving.com.

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