Ben McDaniel. Diver missing from Vortex Springs since 2010

Please note updates on all of MPofA’s stories are put before the original story.  Also make sure to read the interesting comments from readers.

UPDATE 3/31/16 – The Vortex aired on the Discovery channel today  Ben is still missing.

A message from Ben’s dad, Shelby posted on Facebook in 2012:  “Ben, next month, August 18 you will have been missing two years. You are in the back portion of the cave at Vortex Springs or your body was removed and disposed. We have done everything within our power and might to find your remains so we can bring you home to bury over your brother Paul. We have prepared your gravesite so your your bodies will be together. We know in our hearts you two are in Heaven. You both made a big difference in your short time here with us. Your testimonies are awesome! We love you both and miss you so much.”

Latest posts to the McDaniel family in 2014

UPDATE:  April 16, 2012 – The parents of Ben McDaniel decided to take back the reward because that felt it might tempt inexperienced divers to risk their lives in order to collect the money.  Last month, 43-year-old Larry Higginbotham drowned inside the cave at Vortex Spring where McDaniel was last seen.

 Ed Sorenson also searched for Ben.  He went to an area that required him to turn his head backwards to get to.  Sorenson believes if Ben had gone there, there would be marks on the limestone where his helmet or tanks scraped the cave ceiling. There would also be marks in the clay bottom because he would have taken his tanks and swum with one extended in front of his head. Lastly, there would be signs from nature, increased activity from aquatic scavengers, and Ed saw nothing. No limestone scrapes. No clay impressions. No feeding fish or eels.

Another Diver from Australia said that she found what she believes to be Ben’s shovel farther into the caves, in an area farther than any of the other divers went.

Side Note:  On April 1, 2012, Marson Ashly Kay with Karst Underwater Research who searched for McDaniel and said he saw scratches deep in the cave died, after during his ascent, he became disoriented and got stuck in an opening that was too small for him to swim through.

Another theory comes from Lynn-Marie Carty, a Florida private investigator for Reunite People.   She’s gathered criminal records of  people associated with Vortex, including its former owner, Lowell Kelly, who died under suspicious circumstances last month and she found that Kelly was waiting for his trial on charges that he drove an employee into the woods because he thought he stoled $30,000 and then beat him to death with a baseball bat.  Carty believed that the authorities should be investigating the case as a homicide.

“There is just as much reason to look above the water for Ben’s body as there was to look below it in the cave,” Carty said.

Map of cave

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Original Story:  Ben McDaniel, 30, from Collierville, Tennessee was last seen at Vortex Springs near Ponce de Leon in Florida preparing to dive about 7:00 p.m. on August 18, 2010.

Two days later, when dive shop employees noticed that Ben’s truck was still parked they notified the authorities.  His keys and valuables were still in the truck.

The International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery Group searched the cave. 

“We do not believe that he is in this cave. No one else could have gotten to the end of the cave or a perceived beyond without having extra bottles in the water to be able to get himself in that far. As small as the environment gets the further you get back, you can’t carry those bottles through that. So he would have had to leave them and drop them, until you get to the back; because at the furthest point of this cave, the diver can’t move with anything on” says Larry Green, the Regional Coordinator of the group.

About 300 feet into the cave, the tunnel is sealed by a gate and divers must show the proper certification at the dive shop to get the key.  Some tight spots measure 10 inches from floor to ceiling so that divers must wear tanks on their sides to squeeze through.

Search teams found 3-labeled decompression tanks with McDaniel’s name on them, and a few articles of clothing near the entrance of the cave.  The cave narrows down to inches.

What bothered the investigators is that there were no signs from nature that Ben’s body was in the cave.  No increased activity and no aquatic scavengers.

After many searches they came to the conclusion that Ben was not in the cave.  But Tim’s parents were not satisfied.  They believed he must be deeper into the cave and offered money for someone to dive deeper to find him. 

One hired diver spent 100 hours with a team searching, but Ben was never found.

Later, it came out that Ben owed the IRS over $40,000 dollar.  That, along with a failed marriage and the recent death of his brother, made people wonder if he may have gone missing on purpose.

The whereabouts of Ben McDaniel are still unknown.

A documentary movie called Ben’s Vortex was released in August 2012. The man who composed the music for the film (Ben’s Vortex), Xavier Fleuranceau, died while scuba diving on September 29, 2012.

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Jerrie Dean, who is retired from Federal Law Enforcement, is the Founder of Missing Persons of America.