Ben McDaniel: What Happened to Him? Has He Been Found?

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Disappeared’ is well-known for introducing viewers to various real-life cases of people who seemingly vanished without a trace. In season 5, episode 11 of the show, which is titled ‘Disappeared: The Vortex,’ the focus is on Ben McDaniel, a man who seemed to have vanished without a trace, with many suspecting the worst, especially given his affinity for diving. However, the circumstances surrounding the whole situation have often raised enough doubts that have left the world curious in its wake.

Ben McDaniel’s Diving Expedition is Believed to Have Turned Fatal

Primarily hailing from the area surrounding Memphis, Tennessee, Ben McDaniel was an avid diver who had moved to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, in April 2010. The house that Ben was living in at the time was owned by his parents, Shelby and Patty McDaniel, who had been concerned about their son due to the recent changes in his life. Leading up to his move to Florida, Ben had been confronted with various challenges, one after the other. In 2008, Ben had lost his younger brother, Paul McDaniel, due to an apparent stroke, though later evidence pointed towards a possible drug overdose.

Additionally, Ben’s marriage had recently ended in a divorce, and his construction business put him in a financial hole, as he owed a debt of about $50,000 to authorities like the Internal Revenue Service. Concerned about the changes in his son’s life, Ben’s parents had encouraged him to take a break and move to their house in Florida. This was seemingly an idea supported by his girlfriend, Emily Greer. For a time, it seemed like Ben might indeed be moving on from his past setbacks.

The house that Ben was living in at the time was not far from Vortex Spring, The largest diving location in the whole state of Florida. As a dedicated diver himself, Ben often visited the area and had even developed a good connection with local shopkeepers and regulars. In fact, according to Emily, he had even talked about starting a diving-related venture. For all intents and purposes, it seemed like Ben was finally ready to move on. However, things changed on August 18, 2010, when Ben visited Vortex Spring once more. Following his first dive in the middle of the day, it seemed like Ben might have been planning something, given that many people had seen him observing the area near the cave entrance.

Ben ended up refilling his tanks and then continued working on his equipment and jotting down details in his dive log. Around 7:30 pm, he went into the spring once more, seemingly determined to explore the cave system even further. It should be noted that the cave in the spring is actually barred by a gate that is only opened by employees for certified divers with expertise in cave exploration. On the fateful evening, an employee at the diving facility called Eduardo Taran heard Ben seemingly trying to open the gate into the caves and hence decided to open it.

However, he ended up being apparently the last person who ever saw Ben, though few had an idea about it at the start. No one ever saw Ben resurface from the spring on August 18, 2010. Though the stationed employees would apparently often wait for signs of Ben resurfacing during his late-night dives, this particular day was different. Taran and Chuck Cronin, who were there in the evening when the former had opened the gate, had decided to retire to get some coffee. Cronin has since asserted that he knew Ben to be a good diver and trusted his skills when exploring the spring and the cave in it.

Ben’s car, which was parked in the facility’s parking lot, apparently remained there for two days before the employees realized what was going on. His wallet, mobile, and money were all in his car, and a map made by him was also found. Even his rescue labrador named Spooner was found in his home suffering from hunger due to Ben’s absence for well over two days. Divers with skills enough to traverse the caves tried their best to find Ben, but it was to no avail. The normal air tanks that were found at the mouth of the cave did make many experts pause, as the tanks should have actually contained a specialized gas mix.

Ben McDaniel’s Fate Remains Unknown

Following Ben McDaniel’s disappearance, many divers tried their luck at finding the man. Edd Sorenson, a celebrated and skilled diver, came to look for him on August 23, 2010 but became convinced after venturing deep into the cave system that Ben was simply not in the cave, either dead or alive. This roused suspicions among some, like Eduardo Taran and Chuck Cronin, that he may have decided to leave his current life behind and take on a new identity.

Some have even suggested Ben may have been killed and his body could have been dragged away from the diving site. Others have alluded to the possibility that the diver had indeed passed away in the cave and his body might have been lost through the spring’s outlet.  Suspecting could play, Ben’s family had even hired a private investigator named Lynn-Marie Carty. However, despite persistent attempts, Ben has yet to be located.

In 2013, a death certificate for Ben was issued by the state of Florida to his family. His case has been covered in various television projects, like ‘Ben’s Vortex’ and ‘Beyond the Grate.’ Starting with $10,000, Ben’s family continued to increase the prize to anyone who would be able to find his body from the caves. However, when Larry Higginbotham also died on March 17, 2012, in the Vortex Spring, many believed that he might have been diving to find Ben McDaniel, and the prize of $30,000 was rescinded. Nevertheless, his family remains hopeful about finding closure soon.

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