Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

After divers die, state plans no changes in cave access

The treacherous, isolated cave system where a Brooksville man and his teenage son drowned Wednesday has claimed at least six other lives since 1981. But Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said they have no plans to restrict access to Eagle Nest Sink.

"Generally, the public wanted it open with some restrictions," spokesman Gary Morse said.

Darrin Spivey, 35, and his son, Dillon Sanchez, 15, descended on Christmas Day; their bodies were pulled out by rescue crews that night. Neither had cave diving certification, and the teenager had no diving certification at all.

Now part of the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area and located a few miles north of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Eagle Nest Sink was closed in 1999 after the Southwest Florida Water Management purchased the land and worked to establish a plan for access, which had essentially been unrestricted since the spot was discovered in the 1960s.

When the area passed to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2003, local diver Larry Green was among those who pushed for it to be reopened.

"Being able to go where nobody else has gone before is a draw that few places still have," said Green, a dive instructor and shop owner who has mapped and trained in the cave since the early 1980s.

The caves are a geological wonder, said Green, who is 64 and now lives in High Springs. Hernando County's are world renowned for their depth, providing a window into an underground system not easily accessed from the surface.

Yet while Green wanted the caves to be accessible, he and other members of the diving community recommended the Wildlife Commission regulate the people who dive there. He pointed to nearby Sand Hill Scout Reservation, a privately owned Hernando County location that requires two separate permits and 100 hours of cave diving experience before allowing divers access to its underwater system.

When the commission took over, it installed large signs warning of the danger. It also built a pier to make it easier to access.

"There's very little to no supervision over it to check that people with certification came out there," Green said.

To dive there, you only have to drop $3 per person in a locked box at the entrance to the wildlife management area, Morse said. As is the case with hunting, the commission doesn't regulate divers' permits. That falls to the diving community, Morse said.

Certifications differ by dive type, but conditions in the open ocean are wildly different from those in the caves, Green said.

"You're going to have this happen when you've got a site out in the middle of the woods," Green said. "I hate to see anything happen to it, but it's hard to do something with stupidity."

Claire Wiseman can be reached at or (727)-893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.

After divers die, state plans no changes in cave access 12/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 27, 2013 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Assault charge may not sway voters in Montana election (w/video)


    BOZEMAN, Mont. — Republican multimillionaire Greg Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground.

    People fill out ballots for the special election to fill Montana's only U.S. House seat at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Thursday in Billings, Mont. [Associated Press]
  4. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?


    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  5. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city


    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.