The story of Eagles Nest is one that touched me personally. As a father, husband, and an avid diver I could relate to the tragedy that unfolded Christmas Day. Every time I speak about the story I can’t help but think about what happened that day. I continue to wonder what was going through their minds. How could they have avoided this from happening?
The journey into Eagles Nest started in early December. Over the years we have put some phenomenal underwater stories together at CBS4. I was looking to capture something new and spectacular underwater. We had already told the story of the “Silent Invasion” where we dove the Florida Keys to capture a massive invasion of non-native lionfish. Two years ago we traveled the Bahamas and along the Eastern Seaboard tracking massive shark migrations. At one point on the assignment I was 100 feet deep guiding an 11-foot tiger shark into the deep. It’s a moment I’ll never forget… and probably never top.
Cave diving seemed different. I wasn’t quite sure if it would be interesting enough for television. After all a cave is a cave is a cave. Right? Clearly it was something I really had no idea about. As I began to research the sport I came across a host of interesting characters and fascinating stories. I also began to learn how deadly the sport has been for novice divers. Then Christmas Day happened. A father and son diving a cave, doing something they loved. Dead. As the details slowly came out it became clear to me I no longer wanted to do the story. I needed to do the story.
South Florida is a diving paradise. There is a reason why Key Largo has coined themselves the Diving Capital of the World. Every time I go down there I feel like I’m cheating life. It’s like I’m seeing something I shouldn’t be allowed to see. Like many open water divers I subscribed to the thought that scuba is scuba. On this assignment I learned that statement couldn’t be any further from the truth. Cave diving and open water diving are two different sports. I have a sarcastic view on this: one sport is for people who love to live and the other is for people who want to die. Yes it’s sarcasm. But there might be a little truth in that. I think any truthful cave diver will admit they think about quitting from time to time. Why? Because statistically the odds are against them. Because they all know someone who’s died doing this. Because the risk versus reward changes over time.
Cave Diving rules (which there are lots of them) are derived from accidents. Why did Bob die? Because he didn’t have a line. Why did James die? Because he didn’t have a backup flashlight. Why did Gary die? Because he didn’t decompress correctly. It’s downright frightening to me to think of how the hundreds of people have died in caves all because they couldn’t accomplish simple tasks.
I will never be a cave certified diver. I respect those who do cave diving. They are talented, courageous, and I totally understand why they do it. But you won’t see me a couple hundred feet down that hole and 1000 feet back . Why? Two reasons: The risks verses reward argument does not check out for me. Secondly – I read the accident reports. They show fully certified – trained out the wazoo – cave divers who simply made mistakes… and died. The reports also show a majority of the people dying in caves are not cave divers. They are not novices either. They are open water divers – like me. They are weekend warriors looking for a little adventure. And sadly they never come home.
That’s why I needed to do this story. In a television viewing area full of open water divers… maybe we reached a handful of them. Maybe we will keep them from making a mistake. There is nothing in there worth dying for.
If you or someone you know is going to go cave diving I strongly encourage you get the training, pass the course, and practice your sport regularly.
Thank you for taking the time to read my opinion on our report. Please feel free to share it. Who knows? Maybe you will help prevent someone else from making a deadly mistake.