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Thursday, Aug 16, 2018
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Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.

Even experienced divers have lost their lives at the site.

Saturday’s 911 call came in shortly after noon.

Hernando deputies identified the diver as Davin Brannon, 53, of Dover.

"It’s going to be a while for us to determine exactly what happened," Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.

The Eagle’s Nest is in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, north of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. From overhead, it looks like a murky pond. But miles of passages are hidden below the surface of the water. One is more than 300 feet deep. Divers who plunge to those depths need multiple tanks and a special mixture of gas and compressed air.

The cave network is known among divers as the "Grand Canyon" for its stunning views and extreme depth.

It is also known for being dangerous.

Just over a year ago on Jan. 8, Charles Odom, 55, of Trinity died while diving there.

In October of 2016, two men from Fort Lauderdale lost their lives exploring a particularly complex area of the caves.

And on Christmas Day of 2013, a father and son using new gear drowned at the site.

The Eagle’s Nest was off limits to divers when it was owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud, from 1999 to 2003. But the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area opened the pond to the public when it assumed ownership.

There are multiple warning signs on the property. One includes a Grim Reaper and is posted at other deadly cave diving sites around the world.

Its message to visitors: "There’s nothing in this cave worth dying for."

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

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