Friday, September 21, 2018
Public safety

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him .

"I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d never want to leave his family in this way. He loved us all too much."

Brannon was 53 and a Dover resident. He died Saturday while diving in Weeki Wachee’s underwater network of caves known as the Eagle’s Nest, making him the 12th victim of that treacherous system since 1981.

But his friend, Gregg Bonert, who was with Brannon at Eagle’s Nest on Saturday, said this tragedy had nothing to do with a lack of experience or preparation.

"People have a thing about how he was diving in the Eagle’s Nest and that can be very dangerous," Bonert said. "He had all the proper training and equipment. This was a fairly simple technical dive within his capacity. Something just went wrong."

Brannon died underwater, said Bonert, who then swam with his body to the surface.

The cause of death should be known later this week, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said.

The tragedy struck just as they entered what is known as the Ballroom, a cave about 70 feet down, which Bonert said they dive into routinely.

As usual, they had no plans to go any deeper into the Eagle’s Nest, which has passages and caves as deep as 300 feet.

"To go deeper would have required a whole different skill set," Bonert said, adding that Brannon had been diving since the mid 1980s. "He knew his limitations."

Brannon leaves behind his wife, Judy, and an adult son, Matthew Brannon.

Through Brannon’s cousin, Roger Aman, Judy Brannon released a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "He would not want this to give diving a black eye. Diving is very safe and he knew his limitations."

Brannon’s skills saved his life at least once before.

In 2015, he and a friend were diving in the Gulf of Mexico when their 22-foot boat capsized 10 miles west of Bean Point on Anna Maria Island.

Following the incident, the United States Coast Guard crew who saved the pair credited "the boaters’ expertise," noting that they knew their GPS position and never left the capsized vessel.

"He was dialing the Coast Guard as the boat rolled over," Aman said.

The craft capsized because water was not being properly drained from the boat. So after that incident, Aman said, Brannon made sure he always carried a secondary, hand-operated pump.

"He was always the guy double-checking all the equipment," Aman said.

Raised in Dover, Brannon was also the adventurous type as a boy. "He broke both arms swinging on a vine," Aman said. "That’s who he was."

After graduating from Tampa Bay Tech, Brannon would go on to earn an MBA from the University of Tampa and from 1987 until his death, he worked for CAE USA, a flight simulator company.

He also served as a deacon at State Highway Baptist Church in Tampa.

This is the second loss in the week for Brannon’s family.

On Jan. 16, his aunt, Mary Nell Aman, died at the age of 78.

"He was the pallbearer on Friday and then we all went back to the family home and sang hymns together like we used to when we grew up," Kirven said. "It was a beautiful memory. And then Saturday happened."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Comments
FHP: He stopped to help — then another driver killed him and stole his car

FHP: He stopped to help — then another driver killed him and stole his car

ST. PETERSBURG — An act of kindness ended tragically when the body of a missing motorist was found Friday more than 15 hours after he pulled over on the side of Interstate 275 to assist another driver.Dhimitri Andoni, 22, of Clearwater was driving no...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fatal Friday night crash closes lanes on Ulmerton Road

Fatal Friday night crash closes lanes on Ulmerton Road

ST. PETERSBURG — A fatal traffic crash occurred at about 7:15 p.m. Friday at the intersection of Ulmerton Road and Carillon Parkway, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash closed all westbound lanes of Ulmerton Road.No additional informati...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Deputies seek two men wanted in sexual battery at Tampa motel

Deputies seek two men wanted in sexual battery at Tampa motel

TAMPA — Deputies are asking for the public’s help to identify two men they believe committed a sexual battery on Sept. 15 near an east Tampa hotel.The attack took place inside a vehicle at the Quality Inn & Suites at 10007 Princess Palm Ave., accordi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Sheriff: Pinellas deputy fired for alerting inmate about cell search

Sheriff: Pinellas deputy fired for alerting inmate about cell search

A Pinellas County detention deputy was terminated on Friday for revealing confidential information about a scheduled search of jail cells for weapons and other contraband, said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.Detention deputy Michelle Parsons, 48, adm...
Updated: 7 hours ago
'Divorce Court' woman accused of sex with boy, 15; he says he may have fathered her newborn

'Divorce Court' woman accused of sex with boy, 15; he says he may have fathered her newborn

HUDSON — A 26-year-old woman has been charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious battery after a 15-year-old boy told deputies he could be father of her newborn child, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. The boy, who has not been nam...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Deputies: Spring Hill man set fire to ex-girlfriend’s home in July

Deputies: Spring Hill man set fire to ex-girlfriend’s home in July

SPRING HILL — A 27-year-old man was arrested Thursday in connection with a July building fire, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Christopher Lamar Jamison of Spring Hill faces 10 counts of attempted murder and charges of arson and agg...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir paid hundreds of thousands dollars for drugs, federal court records show

Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir paid hundreds of thousands dollars for drugs, federal court records show

Robert Butler III, an heir to a well-known local flooring chain that bears his father’s name, participated in a money laundering scheme and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for cocaine and marijuana in recent years, according to federal court re...
Published: 09/21/18
St. Petersburg woman jumps from moving Uber to avoid kidnapping in Tallahassee

St. Petersburg woman jumps from moving Uber to avoid kidnapping in Tallahassee

It had been about 25 minutes since they passed her drop-off. So, realizing the driver wasn’t going to let her out, 19-year-old Brooke Adkins rolled down the window of the moving car and jumped.Police found her minutes later in a Tallahassee Wa...
Published: 09/21/18
After record-setting day in Tampa, last day of summer brings more stifling heat

After record-setting day in Tampa, last day of summer brings more stifling heat

Weather in Tampa on Thursday took one step above the previous record high, then another for good measure.The high temperature in Tampa reached 96 degrees Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. That beat the old record of 94 by two degre...
Published: 09/21/18
5 people, 3 of them infants, stabbed at New York City day care center

5 people, 3 of them infants, stabbed at New York City day care center

NEW YORK — Police in New York say at least five people, including three infants, were stabbed at an overnight day care center in Queens.NBC New York reports that authorities say the stabbings happened just before 4 a.m. Friday. One of the inf...
Published: 09/21/18