Family of missing diver offers $10k reward

By: David E. Demarest
By: David E. Demarest

Panama City -- The family of a man who seemingly vanished while diving in Vortex Springs is now offering a hefty reward for information that leads to the location of Ben McDaniel or his body.

McDaniel’s truck was found in the Vortex Springs parking lot, in Ponce de Leon, and during the course of multiple well-planned search and recovery dives made by some of the top-cave divers in the world, and other searches that employed submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s), only Ben’s three decompression tanks were found at the mouth of the cave, unused.

McDaniel was last seen entering the cave at 7:30 p.m., August 18, 2010, alone. In addition to cave diving experts, local authorities have logged hundreds of man-hours and used K-9 teams to search the area around the springs, to no avail. Now his family hopes that a $10,000 reward will help turn up information that could bring peace to his family.

Holmes County Sheriff Tim Brown says law enforcement has tried everything they can to locate McDaniel.

"We had people out there for what seemed like forever. We've been back time and time again, diving in that cave. It would just be nice if we could come up with something," said Brown.

Ben’s mother lost her other son, Paul, an avid mountaineer who died unexpectedly of a stroke just two years before Ben’s disappearance. In that case, the family takes some consolation in knowing other lives may be saved through stroke prevention efforts headed by the Paul A. McDaniel foundation, and they also take pride in knowing that Paul’s decision to have his organs donated allowed many others to go ahead with surgeries that would not have otherwise been possible. However, in the case of Ben’s disappearance there has been no such solace.

If you can help solve this mystery, and bring the McDaniel family some measure of peace, please call the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office at 850-547-3681.


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  • by Roger Location: Florida on Feb 28, 2011 at 07:00 PM
    Mr McDaniel I am sorry for your loss. I cannot put myself in your shoes but I do know that the loss of one son would be hard enough, two....it has to be a horrible burden everyday. I do not know where your son is, deep in a passage of Vortex or not. What I do know is that the divers who looked for your son gave 110%. I know that it was not for lack of skill that they did not find him. I have dove with some of those divers and the ones I know are no slouches or lacking in courage. I have made my living diving for almost thirty years and can tell you that I have never encountered a more capable diver than Sorenson. Believe me if he will not push a passage it is not a good idea to push farther. I fear that someone without the skills to push this cave may be tempted by the money with dire results. Could you bear that also? You have lost so much, think of the other fathers. May you find peace. God bless you and your family.
    • reply
      by nunya on Apr 4, 2011 at 03:33 PM in reply to Roger
      i'm pretty dang sure no one without the proper skills and certifications would even be allowed to search for him so everyone predicting with their infinate wisdom that someone else will die (we Americans are so subject to fear campaigns) should please take this into consideration when they start telling this family how to deal with the loss of a second son. Oh, and FYI, with the 10k reward comes a PI as well as media coverage. Two birds, one stone.
  • by Richard Location: Tallahassee on Feb 28, 2011 at 06:30 PM
    This is a sad tragedy but the reward may cause another family to loose their son. If you grieve for your son then grieve for the son. Cave diving can be extremely dangerous. Accept your loss and don't kill some one else in your grief.
  • by buddy Location: Holmes County on Feb 28, 2011 at 06:12 PM
    If it were my loved one, I wouldn't want other people risking their lives for a corpse. What could I say to someone's mother after her son died trying to recover bones in a cave somewhere? How could I convince her that HER son's life wasn't wasted for my own vanity? How could I live with myself knowing I sent someone elses child to their death?
  • by me Location: vortex on Feb 28, 2011 at 11:31 AM
    He's not even in the cave so the 10k someone would be risking their life for is meaningless. He wasnt even a cave diver, there is no way he could of reached the area's that the search team did. He literally staged his death just like he staged tanks at the entrance that were useless for him to decompress on. His family needs to take that 10k and hire a private detective to search land not vortex.
  • by Daniel Location: PCB on Feb 25, 2011 at 11:54 AM
    I think the reason the family offered the reward is so that they can get people talking. They need people talking and speculating if any clues are going to be turned up. That cave has been about as cleared as it's possible to do.
  • by Me Location: memphis on Feb 25, 2011 at 11:10 AM
    I think all you people to learn how to mind your own business and let a famaily try to bring their son home and bury him with their son who died at the age of 22 from a stroke only 2 years ago. You people all think you know what you are talking about when you find out the FACTS before you jump to judgement. None of you know Ben or his fmaily, so let this family grieve their love one how they want too. You all may have something different to say if it was your love one lost.
  • by diver Location: florida on Feb 25, 2011 at 10:01 AM
    I wonder how the family will feel when some poor slob dies in that cave looking for their son, who is either dead, and therefore beyond help, or in Mexico and therefore not in that cave. Either way that death will be for nothing, and will be at least partially the fault of Ben's family....
  • by nunya Location: memphis on Feb 25, 2011 at 08:36 AM
    you'd be surprised how many people dive alone. they are actually starting to certify solo diving.
  • by Debi Location: Richmond, VA on Feb 25, 2011 at 07:44 AM
    And who dives alone?
  • by cme123 Location: destin on Feb 24, 2011 at 05:50 PM
    who dives @ 7:30 p.m. at vortex? someone not wanting to be found?
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