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Monday, March 19, 2012

Ben McDaniel. Diver missing from Vortex Springs since 2010

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

Read more here:

Previous 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.


  1. I'll volunteer to search For Ben McDaniel..
    Contact me Ravenna McGhee

    1. Ravenna, please email me at:


      Shelby McDaniel ( Ben's dad )

    2. it took awhile I found it Dr. Chris A. C. Parker

      Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, UBC

      2054-6250 Applied Sciences Lane

      Vancouver, BC

      Canada, V6T 1Z4


      email: parkerca -at-

  2. Shelby, you might need to call her, as this was almost 10 months ago and she may not check back her and it doesn't bounce to her emails as a reply like it does on Facebook.

  3. Any new update? Has he been found?

    1. No, he is still missing. The family checks in from time to time and there is no new information.

  4. I find It wonderful that people are still wanting to help search <3

  5. My prayers are with this family. I just saw this families episode on ID's show "Disappeared" and my heart went out to them. God Willing that your son will be found.

  6. Did anyone think to blast the cave and then go down to search the rubble? I know this is a very popular diving spot so I'm sure there would be plenty of opposition to even do something like this, but if Ben did get stuck in a small hole or tunnel down there at least it would be safer for everyone involved to search through debris and see if they can locate any remains of Ben. If that yields nothing, then at least the theory that Ben's remains are still in the Vortex can be put to rest and a further investigation can begin on land.

  7. Has there not been any kind of mini, RC sub developed that could be guided through some of these small openings and send back images?

  8. They tried a sub. It only went 700 feet and the cable became to heavy to keep the sub stable.

  9. I saw a show on robotic snake cameras made by a man called Chris parker that may be able to go where no one else can fit it may help to try and contact him If I find more info on him I'll send it your way I'm sorry for your loss hope this info helps

  10. Just this episode of dissapeared about Ben. The thing im confused about is why did it take two days for the employees of the dive shop to notice Bens truck?? He went for the dive Wednesday ( i believe from memory) but it wasnt till Friday that they noticed his truck was still parked by the dive shop. How did they not notice his truck onthe thursday, if Ben and his truck were well known to these employees?? My theory is Ben died in the caves Wednesday. On Thursday morning, someone or multiple people from the dive shop discovered Bens body floating in the water. So not to close the diving down for days or weeks with investigations etc. and not to bring negative publicity to that dive company, these people moved Bens body somewhere. Like they hid it at a different location were it wud not be found and then waited an entire 24 hrs. to report Bens truck to authorities. Just a theory ive thought of that i never saw onthe show and havent read any where else.

    1. This does makes sense!! I could've never come up with that, but it's the only logical explanation left.

    2. That is an awesome theory.
      It die make sense.
      But, they did recover video tape from that area and did not see any suspicious activity. But! The video cameras did not record the entire area of where people go in and or out the cave. And maybe the dude that loaned Ben the key to get into the cave felt he would be punished or fired. Although he did pass a lie detectors test, anyone can pass a LDT given the proper training.

  11. how about taking water sample from deeper down in the water or what about a medium there are some that work with police

  12. Mr. snd Mrs. McDaniel I am so sorry for your loss.
    I have an uncle who had 3 sons and he lost all of them before they were 18. Cherish the son and grandchildren you have and take comfort in knowing you will all be together again one day.
    Again, I am sorry for your loss.

  13. There have been a lot of improvements recently in the size and maneuverability of underwater ROVs, which include cables with buoyancy, to offset their weight. I would contact the two companies below to see what they can offer. Notice, the first one has been completing quite a few recovery missions for victims in extreme conditions.

  14. They said that the map Ben made of his cave diving was irrelevant and didn't look like the vortex cave map that is on hand right now.. what if he found an alternative route beyond the gate and was exploring it him self? He was an adventurer and a risk taker, I am pretty sure he was exploring to find something no one has ever found before. This cave hasn't been fully explored. Ben had a shovel with him that was found at the end where divers could no longer go on.. what if there was an opening and when Ben dug with his shovel and went up it collapsed leaving him stranded.. Just a thought. I will one day go look for him myself. But in the mean time good luck to the McDaniel family and im sorry for your loss. I believe your son found something great and maybe an alternative route, and in order to not shut the cave down for digging and search and maybe for the danger that it is collapsing, they are keeping it a secret.

  15. My heart goes out to his family. It's been way too long for them to not have answers and peace.

  16. I don't believe the family. They are very secretive people who expect noting but perfection from their sons. Paul (the youngest brother that died) died from a drug overdose & the parents told everyone Paul died from a "sudden stroke". The parents had Ben managing their late son's sudden stroke memoriam fund, meanwhile they convinced themselves that Paul didn't die from a drug overdose. I think this family is holding A LOT OF SECRETS! I've read many articles and watched all the documentaries about Ben Mcdaniel, and each time the parents keep telling themselves more & more lies. I think they cannot accept the fact that maybe, just maybe their son Ben was sick and tired of living the lies they forced upon him.
    I feel sorry for Ben.
    I hope he did stage his death.
    I hope he is on a beach somewhere sipping a frozen cocktail & reinventing his life.
    I hope his parents stop lying to themselves & stop lying to all the people out their dedicated in finding Ben.
    Enough is enough.

  17. What about using a sonar mapping machine? they often see what cameras don't.

  18. I Just Seen This On T.v <3 Hope The Family Is Okay.Did They Find Ben's Body?

  19. Just saw Disappeared.

    I was wondering about the letter that Ben wrote to his mother. Ben's generation is used to writing emails and even more prone to using text messages for communication; hand written letters are not common these days.

    Could the letter have been a way of saying goodbye? Did Ben ever write other letters to his mother? If so, of what nature and frequency? Sorry for her loss.

  20. I just watched it on ID channel. So sad, I pray he's found


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