On a sunny August afternoon in Ponce De Leon, Florida, employees at the Vortex Springs dive shop decided to investigate a pickup truck that had been parked nearby for days. Quickly, they found that it belonged to a Tennessee man named Ben McDaniel who, only two days prior, was preparing for a scuba dive into the underwater cave that was inside the springs on the shop’s property.
That was the last time anyone would ever see Ben. Soon after the employees searched for him and came up empty-handed, they called the police. What followed was an investigation that concluded Ben had died inside one of the many, hard-to-access caves inside the springs.
The thing is: no sign of Ben was ever found. Now, some believe that there might be more to this story than many think…
On August 20, 2010, Ben McDaniel was reported missing after employees at the Vortex Springs dive shop in Ponce De Leon, Florida realized he’d never returned from a dive into one of the property’s underwater caves.
Though he was an experienced diver, Ben had been spending time secretly exploring the cave without the proper certification. When it was first discovered that he was missing, the assumption was that he had drowned in the caves. This theory was later supported when cadaver dogs brought in by the police stopped at the entrance to the cave.
Extra air tanks, which Ben would have likely used, were also found at the cave’s entrance. The only problem was that an experienced diver like Ben would have known to place the tanks along his underwater path so he could follow them out. The tanks were filled with air, too, and not the specialized breathing gas he would have been using.
One expert cave diver named Edd Sorenson was called in to investigate a few days after Ben’s disappearance, but he came up empty. He determined that he could find no trace that Ben had been there recently, had gone as deep into the cave as Edd himself had, or that a man of Ben’s size and experience would never have been able to make it that far. Yet, there was no sign of his body.
Even more strange: bacteria tests that would indicate a body was decomposing came back negative. And the employee who let Ben into the cave knowing he lacked the necessary experience passed a lie detector test. Alternative theories began to crop up to explain Ben’s mysterious disappearance.
In the rubble of a divorce, a failed business that left him in serious debt, and his younger brother’s death, Ben had gone to stay at his parents beach house in Florida for a “sabbatical.” Some suggested that Ben faked his own death and started a new life, while others suspected he was involved in a fatal argument with the owner of Vortex Springs over his diving into the cave without the right certification.
Ben’s family has suggested they believe there might be more to his disappearance, but have been adamant that he wouldn’t have abandoned his life. Regardless, the truth of what happened to Ben McDaniel remains a mystery.
What do you think happened to Ben? Did he just go so far into the caves that no one has been able to find him? Did he run away and stage his death? Hopefully there’s a resolution to this story soon for the sake of his family and friends.
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