Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Report: Breathing apparatus became entangled, caused Hernando diver to drown

BROOKSVILLE — The diver looking for David Voiles' body found the bag of golf balls first.

Voiles, a 43-year-old Army reservist and experienced diver, made extra money retrieving balls from water hazards at local golf courses. He had been busy at Sherman Hills Golf Club in Ridge Manor West on the second day of 2012, searching for errant shots in a man-made lake near the 10th hole.

Voiles never came home that night, and friends and family feared the worst.

The next day, a diver from the Pasco Sheriff's Office, struggling to see in the murky water, came upon the nylon bag filled with roughly 500 balls, according to a Hernando Sheriff's Office report released to the Tampa Bay Times this week.

The diver followed a nylon rope attached to the bag and found Voiles' regulator entangled in the line. The breathing apparatus had been pulled across his back and out of his reach, the report said.

Voiles' body was found at 10:37 a.m. Jan. 3, face down on the bottom of the pond in about 8 feet of water. Clad in a wet suit, gloves and flippers, he was wearing a single air tank on his back. His diving mask was still in place.

A knife that Voiles might have used to free his regulator from the tangled line hung from his harness.

"(I)t appears he was attempting to retrieve the knife when he could no longer hold his breath," Detective John Ellis wrote.

Investigators would soon confirm that Voiles died by accidental drowning. But the report, released after the investigation was officially closed, sheds more light on what happened to the man who had been a certified diver since high school.

An autopsy completed the next day found no physical ailments that could have contributed to Voiles' death. Tests conducted on his diving gear found no problems.

The report offers insight into the challenges that Voiles faced as he working with little visibility in a lake that reached depths of more than 20 feet. The water temperature in the area where his body was found hovered near 58 degrees. The bag of golf balls weighed 85 pounds.

An Indiana native who stood about 6 feet tall and played amateur football as a younger man, Voiles was known for his sense of humor, friends said.

Voiles, who lived east of Brooksville, was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq from 2004 to 2005 as a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard. He received a Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal, among other honors, for his service in Iraq. He joined the Florida National Guard the following year.

He volunteered as a youth group leader at his church, Hillside Community Baptist, east of Brooksville. At the time of his death, Voiles was taking online seminary courses through Liberty University, a Christian college based in Lynchburg, Va., with thoughts of becoming a chaplain himself.

Teresa, his wife of six years, was at the water's edge when divers found his body.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]

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