DOWLING PARK, Fla. -- A north Florida woman reportedly died while cave diving at Peacock Springs in Suwannee County.
The sheriff's office reports that 67-year-old Patricia Barkley had been diving with a partner Wednesday when she signaled to him with her light and then took off in the other direction. The partner told deputies that he caught up with her and put her hand on the safety cable, and they began swimming toward the exit. When the partner looked back, Barkley was swimming in the opposite direction.
After 20 minutes of searching, the partner resurfaced and called for help. Recovery divers found Barkley about an hour later, 830 feet from the nearest exit and 53 feet under the water.
Investigators aren't sure what caused Barkley to swim off.
A Marion County woman died Wednesday while cave diving at Peacock Springs in Suwannee County, the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office reported.
The body of Patricia Barkley, 67, was recovered shortly after 12:30 p.m. at the state park, located about 16 miles southwest of Live Oak.
View Woman dies while cave diving in a larger mapBarkley had been diving with a partner when he said she signaled to him with her light and then started swimming in the other direction, said Ron Colvin, chief deputy of the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office. He grabbed her hand and put it back on a safety cable strung through the cave.
The pair were heading toward an exit.
"He looked back, and she was swimming off in the opposite direction" in which she had been going, Colvin said.
The man tried to reach Barkley but couldn't, Colvin said. He remained underwater for about 20 minutes looking for her before he resurfaced.
Colvin said recovery divers happened to be at the springs and searched for the woman. She was found about one hour afterward, 830 feet from the nearest exit and 53 feet under the water.
Barkley, who officers said had a Lady Lake address, had been cave diving at Peacock Springs before, Colvin said. She was considered an introductory level cave diver and had been in training for four years.
Colvin said investigators don't know what happened.
"Even her partner wasn't sure what happened," he said. "I don't know anybody ever will."