A veteran San Diego scuba diver who was helping with the exploration of the underwater passageway at New Mexico's Blue Hole, drowned during a dive.
Shane Thompson and another member of the ADM Exploration Foundation, Mike Young, went into the caves to draw a complete map of the winding tunnels on March 26. The 43-year-old experienced diver, however, never resurfaced.
Thompson was stuck in a cavern underneath the Blue Hole overnight after being trapped in an accident. Authorities confirmed that he died of accidental drowning, but autopsy reports may not be available in the next few weeks.
Thompson was among divers from the foundation who were at the Blue Hole to conduct an exploration for several days, Police Chief Jude Gallegos said. The team has been working on a map of the cave system since 2013.
The divers were at about 160 feet deep trying to assess the caves. Young was supposed to enter the cave while Thompson would stay outside. Instead, he went inside and something went wrong that caused him to panic.
Young tried to exit the area, but both divers were trapped in a narrow canal. Once freed, Thompson went to an unmapped area of the cave. Young looked for his partner, but it was too late. His body was recovered the next day.
The team plans to stop the exploration, since they have already mapped the cave passages passable. According to Curt Bowen, ADM Exploration Foundation president, there is no none left to explore and the cave system ended at 194 feet below the surface.
Because of the extreme environment in the area, the group recommended to the government to close the cave system to the public. The group has secured the grate at the bottom of the swimming hole to prevent novice divers from entering.
Thompson is an experienced diver, he has earned awards for it and have worked as a deep technical rebreather diver for two decades. He was also a diving instructor in the Navy. The family is having a hard time accepting his death, but they said that Thompson loved diving all his life.
Photo: Daniel Lobo | Flickr