Larry Higginbotham, 43, of Biloxi, Miss., had gone to the spring to dive Saturday at 10:45 a.m., said Chief Deputy Harry Hamilton and Sgt. Michael Raley with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.
“When he didn’t return, his girlfriend contacted the Vortex Spring management, who in turn contacted the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said Higginbotham’s body was recovered Sunday evening with the aide of volunteer cave divers.
The death comes as an Investigation Discovery documentary was set to air on the disappearance of Ben McDaniel, 30, of Collierville, Tenn., who was reported missing at Vortex Spring in August 2010. His body was never recovered.
Vortex Spring produces 28 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily at year-round temperature of 68 degrees. Vortex waters flow out of the 225-foot-diameter spring that flows into Blue Creek, which empties into the Choctawhatchee River, according to the website.
Hamilton, when coordinating the search for McDaniel in 2010, said the cave at Vortex Spring is very challenging and extremely dangerous. The bottom of the spring bowl is sandy, with limestone near the vent. So far, divers have penetrated the cave 1,500 feet at a depth of 150 feet.
Dive training is offered at the park and the underwater cave is accessible to 310 feet, at which point further entry is blocked by a steel gate; only certified divers are allowed beyond that point.
Source: News Herald