Tragic But Avoidable Christmas Deaths Don't Result in New Safety Regulations

When people choose to ignore warnings, it's not the state's responsibility


Adding "No, really!" probably wouldn't have mattered.

On Christmas Day, a father-and-son team drowned in an underwater cave in Florida. Darrin Spivey, 35, and Dillon Sanchez, 15, decided to try out their Christmas presents, diving equipment, in a dangerous underwater cave that had previous claimed six other lives. The two of them died as well, their bodies recovered later that evening.

A terrible tragedy, but also notable is the state of Florida's response. They're not going to change anything. From the Tampa Bay Times:

The treacherous, isolated cave system where a Brooksville man and his teenage son drowned Wednesday claimed at least six other lives since 1981. But Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said they have no plans to restrict access to the Eagle Nest Sink.

A local diver, Larry Green, pushed for the cave to be opened for access but wanted it regulated:

Yet while Green wanted the caves to be accessible, he and other members of the diving community also recommended the Wildlife Commission regulate the people who dive there. He pointed to nearby Sand Hill Scout Reservation, a privately-owned Hernando County location that requires two separate permits and 100 hours of cave diving experience before allowing divers access to its underwater system.

When the commission took over, it installed large signs warning of the danger. They also built a pier to make it easier to access.

"There's very little to no supervision over it to check that people with certification came out there," Green said.

Spivey was apparently a certified diver but not a certified cave diver. Sanchez was not a certified diver of any kind. A couple of things to note:

  • There is a huge warning sign about the dangers of exploring the cave. As sad as it was for these two to have died in this way, they chose to ignore the sign.
  • The privately owned diving area has a vested interest in making sure safety is a top priority.

Every so often there's a death in a state or national park and inevitably somebody asks, "Can't something be done?" But when people choose to ignore the efforts to inform them of significant risks, then they take on the responsibility for what happens afterward.

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  1. Who pays for clean up?

    1. hopefully the idiots life insurance, but im guessing the people will foot this bill as well.

      send it to his widow.


  2. ..."then they take on the responsibility"...

    Not allowed by the federal gov't in 2013.

  3. I'm a certified "cave diver".

    1. muff diver here...

  4. SCUBA diving is one of those dangerous activities that has somehow managed to escape the notice of busybody assholes. Certification is still handled entirely by a private body - PADI. And it works just fine, worldwide, without central planners butting in. Imagine that.

    1. If it works so well, how come these two guys died? Huh, hot shot? Huh?

    2. SCUBA diving is one of those dangerous activities that has somehow managed to escape the notice of busybody assholes. Certification is still handled entirely by a private body - PADI. And it works just fine, worldwide, without central planners butting in. Imagine that.

      There are dozens and dozens of certification agencies. I have 3 different open water certifications (Open water, Master Diver, Rescue Diver) and a handful of lesser niche certifications (wreck diving, for instance), as well as a couple of technical diving certifications (Nitrox Diver and certified to fill mixed gas tanks), and not a single one of them is from PADI. They just happen to be the biggest. I'm certified by NASDS, NAUI, and IANTD. Most of the requirements are similar across like certifications, but by no means does PADI represent anything at large.

      1. I'm a PADI scuba instructor and I love to point out scuba's track record in most countries when it comes to not being overregulated. The fact that so many other organizations which teach diving exist (other than PADI) is a testament that consumers will pursue certification and the industry polices itself quite well. If scuba shops operate unsafely then they may lose their certification with the organization and will have a bad reputation among divers (who share information A LOT). So tell me why do, say, Barbers need a government license and scuba shops do not?

        I think this won't last long though. I believe in Australia a government license is required to lead dive charters, and cases like this will only give the statists more ammo to push for regulating this free, as of now, sport.

      2. Wow! Another NASDS guy? I've never met another in all my diving. Do you have the 3 color tape on your equipment or was that just my instructor (Moose in Charlotte)?

        NASDS is now part of PADI by the way. I don't know if that watered down the training requirements or not.

        Cheers, Mad L.G.

  5. Spivey was apparently a certified diver but not a certified cave diver. Sanchez was not a certified diver of any kind.

    Oh, and these two are massive, massive dumbasses. Regular diving is dangerous; cave diving is extremely dangerous. A few years back, a group of instructors went diving in a wreck off of Florida. They lost all visibility when it got silted out, and all of them died.

    1. Oh, and these two are massive, massive dumbasses.

      No, just one. The son trusted his dad to not to try and kill him.

      1. It's sad. I'm a scuba instructor and would never even attempt real cave diving unless I took a cave diving course. Shit is technical.

  6. Jordan is partially right.

    SCUBA has had great success in self-regulation. The World Recreational SCUBA Training Council sets minimum standards for training agencies (like PADI, NAUI, SDI and others). The result is that diving is actually a remarkably safe recreational activity. You're more apt to be injured while driving or running a marathon than while diving.

    That said, the risk factors skyrocket when diving in an overhead environment (cave, shipwreck, frozen lake), or down to extreme depths (100'+). Most of the accidents that make news are from these more risky sub-cultures, and not from your standard Bahamas vacation dive. The story of the Spiveys, while tragic, is a story about an untrained individual taking on challenges beyond their skill level. It is not an indictment about diving (though, as the article points out, some will try to make it out to be).

    As a lifelong diver, I can only hope that the sport continues to operate free of governmental "help".

    1. What is best practice for cave dives? Maintaining a line back to the boat would seem prudent. A glow-in-the-dark line would be better. I have no diving experience - there must be a best practice used by most divers.

      1. Yeah, it's hard to comprehend that "100 hours of cave diving experience" is really necessary. What does it teach you that you couldn't cover in a list of do's and don'ts?

        1. Drills on how to kick or navigate your gear in the dark with out any light.

          There are lots of things to learn, but yes, the primary means of cave diving involves a line (though tied at the mouth of the cave, not the boat. These caves are mostly inland.

  7. Not a diver.

    Scuba diving looks like a helluva lot of fun.

    Cave diving looks like it would be awesome.

    Ya'know what, though? I'd chicken out of a cave after about 10 feet. Not afraid of being underground, in the dark, or under water, but... Put those all together, no, not doing it,

    1. I get claustrophobic panic attacks just thinking about it.

      1. Right there with you. I had no idea it was there until I had a chance to go somewhere on a submarine. The idea of my death is almost academic next to the feeling when it dived.

    2. Can't get into any sport where my life and/or death is determined by whether a piece of technology works or not. Gremlins are real baby. So no skydiving, bungee jumping or cave diving for me.

      1. With you there.

        I don't need no 'rush.'

        As for the discussion, once again why Reason has probably best comments community.

        Now I know a little more about scuba. I'd try it but I have weak ears.

      2. Certified cave diver here. And I live about 45 minutes from Eagles Nest, but I've never dived it. About cave diving, you never know whos gonna love it and who's gonna freak out. A friend of mine was a open water instructor and a former Navy diver, and he didn't take to cave diving. Start hyperventilating and quit the course. A former Navy SEAL quit my cavern course. I didn't expect to like it. I just started on the cavern course because a friend of mine wanted to take it and its just the first step to cavecertification, so I just said, "why not?" And took it with him. I had no intention of continuing on because it did not appeal to me. When I did it, I loved it.I never feel more alert than when I am in a cave. There's a certain amount of adrenaline in the knowledge that if you fuck up, you could die. But I wouldn't say its a"rush." Its something else completely and you can never predict who will take to it.

  8. Dude does not seem to have a clue man.


  9. There is not enough money nor eastern European women to get me to dive in any cave of any kind, for any reason. I can't even begin to understand why anyone would.

    Not only no, but fuck no.

    1. I can't even begin to understand why anyone would.


      Learning a highly technical skill.

      Many reasons.

      1. Mad, that's just two. /smirks like Pajama boy.

      2. Oh, I fully understand that people would enjoy the challenge, just not the idea of diving in a small confined area, where you could easily get stuck and die helplessly.

        Of course, I'll happily drive at high speed in a car without a 2nd thought. Go figure.

    2. I very much doubt that I'd ever do it, but I can certainly understand why someone would.

  10. Cave diving ranks up there right below skydiving: get your jollys until it kills you. RIP recent Darwin award nominees.

    Oh yeah, and you fuckheads who think the expressways are the Indi500? You're in slot #3.

    1. Oh yeah and you fuckheads who dodder along the freeways with your head up your asses paying attention to everything BUT the fucking road and the 17 cars behind them who can't pass because the other lanes are filled with trucks and Asian drivers

      That's right....

      You're in slot #4

  11. Hell, just exploring a cave, much less swimming into an underwater one, is damn dangerous. When the schlock horror film THE CAVE came out I remember thinking how much more effective a film could have been made if they had ditched the critters, and just told the story of a bunch of idiots dying of stupidity in a cave they couldn't get out of.

  12. Is it sad that I wish this article wasn't in print out of fear that some nanny stater will see it and push for diving regulations? The article really doesn't do enough to point out what complete fucking moronic dipshits the nannies are.

  13. We'd all be better served by privatization of most, if not all, of these public facilities. For instance, during the shutdown of Yellowstone National Park, the government spent the same -- perhaps more -- money keeping folks out of the Park as it would have cost had the Park been kept open. The privately-run concessions inside the Park lost money due to the closure. They could just have easily let Xanterra (a US Park concessionaire) run the entire Park on a for-profit basis to avoid this and all future shut-downs.

    On the contrary the government, in its attempt to ingratiate itself to as many as possible, undercharges for all of the national parks. Thus, the above article invites the discussion so badly needed: Why not privatize these operations and allow for better run, safer, paying-for-themselves opportunities for all Americans.

    1. Why not? Because if they privatized theses matters, some bureaucratic empire-builder would lose some power, and that would be Just Dreadful.

      1. Thank you for bringing me back to reality. I'd overlooked the obvious.

      2. Why not privatize these operations and allow for better run, safer, paying-for-themselves opportunities for all Americans.

        Duh. Because they would immediately cut down every tree and build a shopping mall.

  14. "But when people choose to ignore the efforts to inform them of significant risks..."

    Strange and awkward way to put it. What's the difference between ignoring the efforts to inform them and choosing to ignore the efforts?

  15. Florida - where white people can legally hunt black people using "stand your ground" and divers are allowed to die in underwater caves.

    Florida also has on income tax, how can roads and schools exist in that place?

  16. I see there are some experienced divers here. Cool.

    For the non-experienced:

    I have dived a lot. I never did, nor will I ever, cave dive. What is an insignificant nuisance up here can very quickly become a life threatening crisis underwater. In shallow water with a dive partner it is really not that bad. The danger goes up exponentially once you have something over your head.

    My brother lived in High Springs about a mile from Ginnie Springs. Every year they pulled a couple of former hardcore, experienced cave divers out of there. I figure if those guys can die, I probably will. I dont go in caves.

    I have done some deep diving, but it just wasnt all that.

    The best dives I have ever had were in less than 50 ft of water. Reefs are cool, and drift diving in clear water rivers is very cool.

    If you have not dived, do it. Take a course and stick to the easy stuff. You will have the time of your life.

  17. my roomate's half-sister makes 74 dollars an hour on the laptop. She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her check was 19922 dollars just working on the laptop for a few hours. published here


    1. Your mom makes 50 dollars a minute on my laptop.

  18. "But when people choose to ignore the efforts to inform them of significant risks, then they take on the responsibility for what happens afterward." What a shame that this sentiment, I think it was once called common sense, seems to no longer be common. And by common I mean completely obvious to anyone with a third grade education.

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