One scuba diver has died and another is missing after what authorities described as a possible drowning incident Wednesday at Buford Spring.
Swimmers in the area of the spring found an unresponsive scuba diver in the water a little after noon, according to Kenneth Wannen, a spokesperson for Hernando County Fire Rescue. The swimmers dragged the diver out of the water and called 911 around 12:20 p.m.
First responders arrived and declared the diver dead at the scene, according to Wannen, and a search is underway for a second diver.
Buford Spring is located inside the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, 13243 Commercial Way in Brooksville.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is on the scene to assist in the search, according to Melody Kilborn, a spokesperson for the agency.
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation, according to Kilborn. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed it is investigating a diving incident but did not comment further Wednesday afternoon.
Each diver is required to go through a registration process with the wildlife commission, and authorization must be on file before diving at Buford Spring, according to the agency’s website.
According to a Chassahowitzka Recreational Guide available on the wildlife commission’s website, Buford Spring is a network of underground caverns with a 167-foot descent. The spring is described as containing maze-like passages within the caverns.
The guide warns of the dangers cave divers face at both Buford Spring and Eagle’s Nest Sink, a neighboring spring described as the “Mount Everest of cave diving,” saying that people have died at both locations.
“Several factors make diving in Buford Spring and Eagle’s Nest Sink dangerous: the need for specialized equipment, the distance from the surface, and the lack of light in maze-like passages all contribute to hazardous conditions,” the guide said. “Even experienced cave divers have perished here. Underwater caves, beautiful as they are, do not forgive mistakes.”
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.