Monday, September 24, 2018
Public safety

Man dies at treacherous Eagle's Nest cave diving site in Weeki Wachee

WEEKI WACHEE — The treacherous Eagle's Nest cave diving site has claimed another life, authorities say.

Charles Odom, 55, of Trinity died while diving at the sinkhole on Sunday, Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said Monday.

Odom arrived at Eagle's Nest Sunday morning before 10 a.m. with three other divers: Kevin Lura, 33, of St. Petersburg; Evan May, 33, of Brandon; and Christopher Jones, 29, of Plantation, Moloney said. After experiencing difficulties with his gear, May stayed behind while the other three descended through a narrow tunnel into the cave network below, the Sheriff's Office said.

After the group explored the cave's famed Ballroom, a cavernous underwater chamber, Moloney said, Lura and Jones noticed Odom had gone "limp" at a depth of about 100 feet. They floated him to the surface while they ascended more slowly to properly decompress.

May, who had been loading his gear into his truck, saw Odom's body float to the surface. May was able to pull him out of the water, but Odom was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the scene by first responders.

Eagle's Nest is in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, a few miles northwest of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. The underwater caves are known in diving circles as the "Grand Canyon" for their stunning views, extreme depth and remote location.

They're also known for their danger.

Before Sunday, at least 10 divers had died there since 1981. In 2013, a father and son drowned during a Christmas Day excursion. In October, two divers from Fort Lauderdale died when they failed to resurface during an outing at a spring. They were found near each other in about 260 feet of water, in a complex area of the cave system,

The site was closed to divers from 1999 to 2003.

Investigators will check Odom's dive gear and computer for any malfunctions, Moloney said, and an autopsy will be conducted.

Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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