WEEKI WACHEE — Authorities have determined that a Gainesville man who died Saturday during a deep-water dive at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park was killed by an air embolism.
An avid diver with years of experience exploring caves, 29-year-old Marson Kay and three others entered the water just after 3:30 that afternoon and swam down 178 feet below the surface.
The group was with Karst Underwater Research, a Tampa-based nonprofit company that maps underwater springs for Florida state agencies and water management districts. The group has been exploring Weeki Wachee Springs for years and has discovered that it is the deepest spring in the United States.
During his ascent, authorities say, Kay appeared disoriented and took the wrong path to the surface. He then became lodged in a cavern about 100 feet underwater.
His fellow divers tried to pull him but couldn't. They quickly swam to the surface and alerted the other researchers.
A rescue dive team plunged back into the water, but when they reached Kay just three minutes later, his mask was on his forehead and his regulator was out of his mouth. He had already died.
The medical examiner determined that Kay did not drown, as some initially speculated. An air embolism is essentially an air bubble that blocks an artery and cuts off the blood supply to part of the body. In Kay's case, authorities say, a bubble became lodged in his heart and prevented blood from flowing into his lungs.
Embolisms commonly occur when divers surface too quickly.
John Woodrow Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.