WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. (WFLA) – The bodies of two divers were found on Monday in the Eagle’s Nest cave system near Weeki Wachee.
Deputies with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call about two missing divers at the Eagle’s Nest dive area around 6 p.m. on Sunday. Eagle’s Nest is also known as Lost Sink and is near Weeki Wachee in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge. This is well-known and potentially deadly location for divers all over the world.
Deputies say the diver Justin Blakely told them that he and his two friends, Patrick Peacock and Chris Rittenmeyer, traveled from Fort Lauderdale for a 3-day dive at Eagle’s Nest for deep underwater exploration.
Blakely said that Peacock and Rittenmeyer were both experienced divers and had both dived Eagle’s Nest several times in the past.
Investigators say all three divers entered the water at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Blakely was the most inexperienced diver and agreed to remain closer to the surface, while the other two divers explored the caves. The plan was for Peacock and Rittenmeyer to check in with Blakely at a predetermined location at 3 p.m.
However, Blakeley waited, and they did not show up. Blakely went back 30 minutes later; they still were not there. Blakely checked back every 30 minutes, meeting with negative results. At 6 p.m., Blakely called 911.
“They had a place under the water to meet after about an hour and at that time the 3:00 time came and the less experienced diver went to the location and the two experienced divers did not show up,” said Denise Moloney with the Hernando County Sherriff’s office.
On Sunday night, a group of rescue divers entered the water in an attempt to locate Peacock and Rittenmeyer. But, they were not able find them.
At 9 a.m. on Monday, a new group of rescue divers entered the water in an attempt to locate Peacock and Rittenmeyer. Both divers were found near each other in 260 feet of water. The divers were in a very dangerous and complex area of the cave system.
The rescue divers assisted in removing the bodies from the water. Both bodies were turned over to the Medical Examiner’s Office. The volunteer team of divers returned to the cave system on Monday to recover Peacock and Rittenmeyer’s equipment.
Jeff Tobey is an experienced diver with Scuba West Dive Shop in Hudson and says the Eagle’s Nest cave system is not suited for most divers.
“It is absolutely gorgeous but it’s deep and a complex cave system so it’s only suited for people who have that training and experience,” said Tobey.
This is not the first diving tragedy at Eagle’s Nest. Father and son Darrin Spivey, age 35, and Dillon Sanchez age 15, drowned in the Eagle’s Nest underwater cave system on Christmas Day in 2013. The pair was trying out diving equipment they received as a Christmas gift.