What Happened to Ben McDaniel? Unanswered Questions

SCUBA symbol on the bank of Vortex Spring

This is the second of a two-part series about the mysterious disappearance of Ben McDaniel, a certified open water SCUBA diver that has been missing since August 18, 2010. The missing persons case remains open.

On August 20, 2010, a call went out to cave divers in the region surrounding Vortex Spring, Florida that a diver was missing, and in all likelihood, a body needed to be recovered from the cave within the spring. Three teams of 16 divers accepted the call and searched for the body of Ben McDaniel for 36 consecutive days, finding not so much as one indication that he had indeed drowned in the cave or the surrounding spring. Every crevice and opening of the cave was fastidiously searched, with the exception of a constricted, dangerous area in the rear of the cave that even highly experienced expert divers had encountered difficulty entering. The owner of Cave Adventures, a dive shop located about an hour from Vortex Spring, made his way into the area in 3 attempts, and found no evidence that any divers had been in there. With the effort it took to gain entry, he speculated that a diver of McDaniel’s stature, over 6 feet tall and 210 pounds, would not have been able to secure access.

Although no evidence was found in the cave that would suggest what had happened to McDaniel, there were some odd clues. Full air tanks were discovered outside the entrance of the cave, which was perplexing to investigators for two reasons. The first was that the tanks were filled with regular air, which is inconsistent with what McDaniel would have presumably learned by reading up on cave diving, as his parents insisted he did, because cave diving often requires a special gas mix, depending on certain factors, such as depth. Secondly, cave divers place extra air tanks along their way inside the cave, so that it is within ready reach if the diver should need it in the cave. In addition to these strange discoveries, McDaniel’s truck went unnoticed by staff of the dive shop at Vortex Spring for two days, despite being parked well within their view. Inside the truck was McDaniel’s wallet with almost $700 in cash, a cell phone, and various other personal effects. The last call placed on the cell phone was to his mother the previous evening.

A stern warning to aspiring yet unqualified cave divers

Ben McDaniel’s parents, Shelby and Patty, attended the searches vigilantly, hoping against hope that one of the divers would surface with answers about their son. They offered a reward of $10,000 to any diver who would brave the incredibly dangerous passage where other experienced cave divers refused to search out of fear for their own lives. Because that area remains unturned, the frustrated and grief-stricken parents have become convinced that is where Ben’s body may be. Their unwillingness to accept that this theory may be incorrect was what led Jill Heinerth to produce a documentary about the mystery.

Heinerth and her husband, Robert McClellan, have produced four documentaries, one of which was “Water’s Journey,” aired on PBS. Heinerth’s initial motive for visiting Vortex Spring was to take footage of a cave dive to present to McDaniel’s parents in an effort to demonstrate the inherent dangers of cave diving and help them to get closure. But after reading McDaniel’s log books, Heinerth discovered that he was mapping the cave, and had made at least one dive to its furthest reaches. She then changed her mind about the approach, concluding that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that he wasn’t in that part of the cave, leading to her decision to make the documentary focused on his disappearance, and to call it “Ben’s Vortex.”

An example of the nooks and crannies within Vortex Spring's cave

Theories as to what really happened to Ben McDaniel abound. Some believe that perhaps McDaniel set the scene for his own disappearance in an attempt to start a new life with no one any the wiser. Others think he drowned at some point in the cave and was swept out to sea. Yet another theory suggests foul play may have been involved, with a former owner of Vortex as a suspect. At the time of Ben’s disappearance, the owner was awaiting trial for the alleged kidnapping and beating of a temporary employee, for which he pleaded no contest and received a fine and probation. The man is since deceased, with suspicious circumstances surrounding his death a month ago.

The McDaniels continue to hold onto hope that their questions will someday be answered. Until then, the missing persons case remains open. The couple has since increased the offered reward to $30,000 for the diver who is able to locate their son in the last reaches of the cave.

Photos via bnorwoodThespis377


  1. Has anyone thought to send an rov into the cave to help his parents at least move past the theory he is on the cave? It would cost a lot less than $30,000 to send one in there.

    • They did send in the ROV but it could not make the length of the caves. In the bio, it shows the ROV & it’s wires twisting and banging all around.

    • We had to guarantee the return of the ROV in case it could not be recovered as the FT. Lauderdale Sheriff’s Dept. had not ever used one in a cave before. The replacement cost was about $54K, but to us it was worth the effort. I must say wouldn’t a parent do whatever possible at the time as we did?

      • Christina Morales says:

        I can’t think of anything your family could have done differently. Only God knows why He require so much from as parents as a family. May God’s presence comfort your hearts.

  2. julie clarke says:

    “cave diving requires a special gas mix.” So cave divers never use air? I don’t think that’s right.

    • bob broski says:

      They use nitrox to avoid getting decompression sickness which can be lethal. Air that we breathe while walking around is only about 20% oxygen to begin with and contains a multitude of other trace gases. In these nitrox containers, there is enriched Nitrogen with still about 20% oxygen, this way the divers can move seamlessly among depths in the water. To boil it all down, they do use air, if they did not use air, they would die, because, as living creatures, we need to breathe air to oxygenate our blood

  3. Stephanie says:

    I think he is still alive he just changed his appearance

  4. bob broski, You have no clue what you’re talking about.

  5. was just watching the disappeared. rov cant make it to the back so anyone ever think how can a 6’2″ 220 pound man do that? Ok so if that not where he went then why not explore the rest of the vortex to see if he turned around and went different direction, might have unknowingly ran out of air somewhere else down there.

  6. Shelby McDaniel ( Father of Ben McDaniel ) says:

    Candy, this is Ben’s Dad. The ROV could have made it to the extreme end but the Ft. Lauderdale Sheriff’s Dept. said they had not ever dove in a cave with it. Therefore, some things were done without thinking through things, ie, flow of the ROV and that since it had a tether 2000 ft. cord most of the divers down/air time was used up manually transporting and pulling the cord at 130ft +-down and only about 700 ft. into the cave. Ben had actually been down there a month before at a depth of 142 ft. and 1450 ft. or so into the cave. If the divers and camera crew had coordinated to carry the tether cord fully in length at one efort the camera would have been able to film the entire full length to the end of the cave. As it were it was found there to be a hole about 1600 ft. and 160 down at the extreme end where no one would go through. The hole was about shoulder width. The diver shined his light into the hole but could not see anything. Since I had to guarantee the recovery of the camera and cord I would have given the ok for the camera to proceed into the very last hole/restriction—but none of the cave divers would take that chance to feed the tether cord until the camera had come to the very extreme starting point of the underwater flow of water. Used to when the cave was being mapped out in 2003 a diver could go thru this last restriction and turn around when he got to the last turn-around room. The divers said it looked like there had been some caving in of that last few feet. But, I would have taken the chance and allowed the camera to go thru the hole an it was self-powered with lighting and hand controls on top of land. I still would like to do that–to prove beyond a doubt that Ben was or was not in that last few feet. The cave is one way in and one way out! I have not given up on finding his body–The divers do not want to go past that last restriction, and I can understand that, but i am willling to try the camera again, this time with a more coordinated effort. I’m working on that scenero, plus others. Email me at: smcdan6@comcast.net ( shelby, Ben’s dad )

  7. Hi all, there are very few things that I watch that impact me so greatly but after watching the episode of Ben going missing over a year ago, I have never quite been the same, googling at least once a month to check if any progress has been made.
    I have watched many mystery and disappeared shows as a little girl till now and my gut feel, instinct, tells me he’s not in the cave. I feel perhaps someone has indeed hurt him and used his love for diving as a perfect means to throw attention from searching elsewhere.
    Is it coincidence that at the time of disappearance his former employer kidnapped someone?
    We can’t let someone else’s evil plot get the better of us. This has wounded so many of us who don’t even know him, who live across the world… We need to know what happend…

  8. Shelby McDaniel says:

    Kavitha, I see that you mentioned at the time of Ben’s disappearance his former employer kidnapped someone. Ben had his own construction company. Would you tell me where/how you came to this statement please? Thanks, Ben’s dad. You can email me at my email address shown above in my last comment.

  9. What if the man who gave him access to The Gate found that Ben perished in the cave, and covered up/disposed of his body? On the ID episode, they said that man changed his initial story. Maybe he didn’t want the business shut down, due to a death they could’ve prevented? Just an idea…

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the McDaniel family. Hope they find some answers soon.

  10. I only seen the show on disappeared but have a question someone may know, since this is a very perplexing case. At the end of the show they mention a husband and wife team who dived to the very last passage and recorded. They mentioned that sometimes if divers run out of air and panic that they may try to get into small crevaces, were all of these crevases checked up to the last passage or is that impossible to do? It also said something about a dive shovel being found, did that belong to ben? If it did, isnt it odd all of the divers who said they dove to the furthest passage never found it?

  11. Shelby McDaniel says:

    Russell, the shovel belongs to Steve Keene, who mapped out the cave in 2003. I hired him to dive Vortex in October 2010 and he left the shovel back there; it was not Ben’s.
    ( Ben’s dad )

  12. Gloria Applegate says:

    it is a shame that Disappeared cannot or does not update their segments with new information on all these cases. At the end of the episode it appears that the shovel does belong to Ben, then to find out that indeed it did not makes the person watching wonder how many other things have changed or been figured out since the show was filmed. As a person without cable tv, I have only recently discovered this program on Netflix and have watched and rewatched many of the episodes through season 5, perhaps obsessively so, as it is impossible to watch and not be swept up in these family’s tragedies. At the end of each episode I then read all I can about the case and what updates there may have been online. I felt sure that more than a year after this story aired that Ben’s body would have been found in the cave and hopeful that this was over now for the McDaniel family. Sadly, I see that it is not. When it appeared that the shovel was Ben’s, I thought possibly he had been digging at the cave wall in hopes of discovering a new passage or widening what was there to be able to go further back than anyone else ever had but I suppose he could have found Steve’s shovel and been using it maybe for some time. Could he have created a cave in of sorts and been trapped beyond the wall?
    I have also wondered if the man who let him into the gate (Eduardo) discovered Ben’s body after realizing he had not come out and went to look for him. Knowing he could be blamed for the death because he had given him access where he didn’t belong, he might have panicked and figured he had to hide the body, either in the vortex or on land. Or, perhaps he was diving with Ben and they were working together on something when an accident occurred and he felt responsible and afraid to tell the truth about it. Is this man still in the area? How well was he investigated?
    To Shelby — thank you for responding personally as you do and attempting to keep all of us following this story updated. As a mother and grandmother, I don’t know how you or anyone in your position continues to live their life in the face of such tragedy. I cannot fathom such pain. Each episode that I’ve watched, including your son’s, has been completely heartbreaking and has pulled me in to the point that I feel I must know the outcome. And wishing that I could do something to help. I hope that someone somewhere will finally provide the answer you need and the peace you deserve.

  13. The McDaniels could one day find a way to get into that last place no one has gone or searched or where as far as the camera could have either….. Hopefully one day that route is taken w new equipment or a small small framed woman diver maybe could fit and go beyond all the others who have attempted back then. I know times and money are hard these days to just go beyond the means to keep hiring and putting forth hard earnings which any parent would do who loves their children but just wondering have you guys set up maybe a foundation for Ben $ wise where we can put in to help out w his finding one day? I’d certainty donate to The finding of Ben McDaniel.

  14. Grace Hyde says:

    Did they investigate the guy that gave him the key to get into the gate ?? Maybe he was afraid of losing his job over it . He saw the car he gave all the info to the cops but did the cops check him for lying ???. If he were in that cave they would have found him. he is not there as far as i can see.

  15. Nicole M. Columbo says:

    It almost seems innevitable that something has been staged here. Someone know what happened to Ben, no how he just walked off an left such a horrible hoax behind for people to unravel. Theres definitely foul play of some sort.

    • I agree ,reading about and watching the film in Australia I don’t think he went in the water at all ! Regards Barry

  16. Thoughts & prayers go out to the Mcdaniel family. Losing one son is tragedy enough, let alone two. I could really see the sadness in Pattys eyes. God bless..

  17. Where would his scuba tanks been filled? My husband was a scuba diver and used to drop his tanks off to be filled. If Ben’s had the wrong mixture of air, then who is responsible for this?

  18. Shelby McDaniel says:

    Paula, Ben’s tanks were fill by Eduardo that afternoon. We know what the mix is in the three tanks found but the C130’s he had on him we don’t. At some point in time I will let everyone know some of the answers many have questions about. I now know more info as I continually have people about. There will be a few surprises ! We miss Ben and Paul so much, especially this time of the year. We are grief leaders at our church and God allows us to try to help families move on who have lost a loved one. We volunteer for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation here in Memphis as we share our story and promote organ/tissue donation.

  19. its unreal that in this day and age they can’t find any robotic wireless equipment or attach a small camera to a fish (haha-if that’s possible I don’t know) that could make it to the last few feet where he might be … I hope his family will find him soon… I figure if nasa can see billions of light years off into space why can’t they see a few feet into a cave? :)

  20. I agree with Mary 100% There must be some type of equipment in this day and age that can do this search. I like the idea of a camera on the fish or a turtle. The family is in my prayers.

  21. Shelby McDaniel says:

    It looks like “The Vortex” on the Disappeared Program about Ben will air in the tomorrow morning at 10 AM ET.

  22. Debbie Cauley says:

    Praying there will be closure for the family. I can’t phantom that a son that has so much love for his mother would go off and re-invent himself. I’m curious about Eduardo.

  23. If i remember correctly …Didn’t the employees keep track of who went in the cave and who uses the tanks etc ? I think it’s strange that the employees at the Vortex wouldn’t call the authorities or go check on the diver when they see a diver hasn’t come up by closing time especially knowing his truck is still parked there after two days…In the show they say the truck went unnoticed for two days…..I find that hard to believe they wouldn’t notice that truck parked there..I watch Disappeared all the time,and i’m always looking for updates ..I have searched several times looking for updates on Ben…I hope the family gets the answers they are looking for.

    • But i also thought maybe he’s alive or foul play because of nobody having any luck finding him in the cave…Another man from Mississippi died in that cave a year,and a half after Ben disappeared and volunteer divers found him..I just hope whatever, happened the truth comes out.

  24. What about the surveillance cameras? It seems like someone would notice been going in and out..

    • Shelby McDaniel says:

      This is Ben’s dad: The camera at the office did catch Ben getting his tanks filled earlier in the day, but the other cameras were inoperable !! Ben’s body nor any evidence has surfaced or has been found. The previous owner, Lowell Kelly, did not have the necessary security measures in place to monitor anyone going or coming !! The profiler we hired to investigate was 100% convinced Ben was taken out of the springs and his body disposed !! Yet, cadaver dogs did not pick up any scent on the property except at the water edge a week after he disappeared and again a month later a stronger body decomposition scent was found topside where the boil is located ( where the water flow rises up from within the cave itself ). And yes, his 3/4 ton GMC truck was parked where he always parked it !! His dog was still on the bed when we arrived in Florida. Ben loved that dog. Now we have her, and her name is Spooner. We also have our youngest son’s dog who died of a stroke September 14, 2008. You can get to know him at http://www.paulmcdanielfoundation.org. His name is Paul, who was a senior in college and was 22 yrs. old. You can get to know Ben a little on his Facebook page. Occasionally I will post something on it.

  25. Christina Maas says:

    I just watched the show about Ben it broke my heart. I am sure you have already but I was just looking online at all the underwater ROV there are so many manufactures out there with new technology have you contacted individual company’s for help? It would bring them publicity? Either way my my thoughts and prayers are with you. After watching your story I truly believe he would not just leave and not contact you.

    • Shelby McDaniel says:

      I have contacted many manufactures and to build just one AUV underwater vehicle, wireless with a camera would be extremely expensive/prototype and no one was interested. There are companies that do make this type of AUV. For example, I did find a company that makes one but it is the size of a actual tuna and looks like a tuna—-this one is designed to be out in the oceans to follow schools of tuna to learn how they migrate, etc. There are companies that build ROV’s but they all require a tether cord, that caused the camera to hang up when it was looking for Ben. There were other reasons the camera did not work out too. One was the ROV used has never been used in a cave effort and the tether cord proved to be a handicap as the further the camera went back into the cave the heavier and more difficult the camera became to maneuver. Finally, at about 700 ft. the divers had used their air time and could not pull the 2000 ft. cord all the way into the cave. Ben’s body is about 170 ft. down and around 1600 ft. in the extreme end of the cave somewhere past the fifth restriction. It appears it is too dangerous for divers to go that far. Originally in 2003 when the cave was mapped out the cave was more opened up. If you will read my note above I had hired the diver to look for Ben that mapped out the cave in 2003. He said there had been a cave-in and there was no way to turn around if a diver was to get through the 5th, as we believe that is where Ben is. Ben was not able to turn around and got trapped.

  26. This case has been interesting to me for a very long time. I’m sorry to this family,but I believe the search of the vortex spring is fruitless. Please note that other divers drowning in this spring have been quickly recovered. There are no signs indicating foul play. I cannot help but get stuck at the truck. He had lost his job, living in his parents second home…why leave a wallet with a large sum of money in plain sight? Foul play would indicate these items would’ve been stolen or at least thrown out to divert attention elsewhere. As for the cadaver dogs, many have drowned in this spring and sadly, dogs spotting and hitting on human decomp wouldn’t necessarily be of just one individual. Leaving cash, phone, and incorrect cave dive maps in a truck in plain sight are all indicative of someone that wants to walk away and start over. As hard as it is for those of us that are left behind to grasp, some folks need a new start. The former owner has been questioned and while he may have had some previous bad behavior, this doesn’t make him Bens killer. In fact, there’s nothing at all indicating that anyone has hurt Ben McDaniel. My thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones!

  27. Mr. McDaniel,
    I am a firefighter/paramedic and a rescue diver. Diving is a very dangerous venture especially after you have made a few hundred dives. It can give individuals a sense of security while diving. I have not had the chance to dive there as I am on the west coast.
    I do feel like it is a real possibility he is in there or in some crevasse. My thought would be why haven’t you explored widening the opening by using a device that can suck up dirt from the floor of the cave. They have dredging equipment they could use something like they use in finding gold on ocean floors. Not sure this equipment has this application but might b able to be adapted.
    Good luck and god bless !
    Jeff Rice
    Rescue Diver
    U.S. Dept of Defense (civilian)

  28. Shelby McDaniel says:

    Thanks for your support. Yes, several years ago Vortex was actually vacuuming the sand back toward the front but it became too expensive and time consuming, and not enough help. I don’t know all the reasoning but with a continual strong flow the sand intends to build up at different locations causing mounds of sand to interfere with a diver going very far back. There have been only a handful of divers that have actually been to the fifth restriction and only two or three to go through the fifth. One being Steve Keenes in 2003 and again in October, 2010 when I hired him to look for Ben. He said there had been a cave-in and it was too dangerous to proceed.

    And yes, I suppose it could be done but it is very dangerous. That is one reason we pulled the reward to look for Ben. As you probably know there was a diver who drown either last year or the year before. He had taken a scooter and got tangled up at the fourth restriction. His wife said he was not looking for Ben, but we recinded the reward anyway. He did not tell Vortex’s staff his plans, but he should have had a dive buddy with him, as should Ben.

    Our family believes Ben is in the extreme end of the cave stuck as he was probably trying to back out and blocked himself in as he realized he was in trouble and he frantically dug himself into a hole and could not turn around as the passage became too narrow.

    We know Ben’s soul is in Heaven with his brother Paul, who had a stroke five years ago. We donated his organs. His heart recipient from Dallas comes to visit us every year. Paul had a B+ blood type causing his organs not to be place locally. His left kidney went to East Tenn. to a 14 yr. old girl who had two weeks to live, his right kidney went to New York State, his liver went to Boston to Tony, and his heart went to Dallas to Stephen ( who we have become extremely good friend with his family ). My wife gets to hear her son’s heartbeat every year! Paul’s tissue helped over a 100 people live a better life. His skin went over to the burn center, his intestines were used to make babies stomachs and esophagus. His bone tissue was used for orthopedic surgeries and the leg veins and arteries were frozen and used for other surgeries.

    My wife and I are volunteers for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation here in Memphis as we share our story with high school and colleges, and volunteer at different events to promote organ/tissue donation.

    So, even though we miss Ben and Paul, maybe their deaths can be helpful for others to learn from. We are also grief leaders at our church as we try to help those who have lost a loved one learn to create a “new normal” in their new journey of life.

    • Shelby,

      It’s very cool seeing your replies here.

      I see you mention that a diver drowned and didn’t have a dive buddy and that Ben didn’t have one either.

      Did you guys know that he was going to do this dive without a dive buddy? I understand that you have to be certified to get past the gate, but can just anybody dive down there if they want? Have they considered requiring a dive buddy to dive down there?

      Prayers for you and your family.


      • Shelby McDaniel says:

        Thanks for your prayers. It is a challenging journey to travel. But knowing both my sons are in Heaven outweighs the grieving.

        I think private diving locations, like Vortex Springs, do not require a dive buddy. But I believe it is required at state owned dive places. Ben had told us he could not find anyone to dive with him. I have been advised by divers since his death that a lot of cave divers had rather dive alone. We did not realize at the time the importance of a dive buddy. Nor did we realize just how dangerous the cave was as a diver proceeds farther back. And yes, a diver is supposed to be cave certified to go past the locked gate, but the two employees knew Ben and made the decision to open it. Ben was working on his instructors license and cave certificate and was close to receiving them in a short while.

        Ben was very adventurous and not fearful of being alone. That can be an advantage but it also can work against you, as it happened in his situation. Why he decided to proceed without a buddy was very dangerous indeed. As a matter-of-fact, the top female cave diver in the U.S. and her team went in to look for Ben and she said with her 7500 dives, she would not go past the gate without a dive buddy!

        I don’t know how much you know about Ben’s disappearance but we hired a private investigator and the report was 100% convinced Ben was taken out of the cave and his body disposed of on the properties 800 acres somewhere. That particular night the previous owner was at the springs complex late ( which we found out later that he hardly ever came except daytime ). The previous owner was a convicted felon as was his office manager at the time. The following December the previous owner was at one of his “wild parties” and according to the police report fell off the balcony and went into a coma—early January he died of complications.

        But we more believe Ben is still in the very end area of the cave stuck in a crevice or in a sand hole he dug himself into knowing his air was running out. There has been a cave-in toward the extreme end thus making it virtually impossible to retrieve his body. It does not look feasible to get into that area as it is so small for human entry. We were hoping that the underground water flow would loosen a fin or goggle or something to prove his whereabouts, but it appears with the two large dive tanks he had on him and the way his gear was attached that will not happen.

        With the previous owner dying the ownership of the cave has reverted back to the prior family who had owned it previously. It seems the owner who died had not paid anything as contracted and purchased the land and springs under false pretentions.

        I have learned a lot about searching the cave and have been in touch with companies who could build a miniature AUV to swim towards the rear. But, it seems the current is too strong and the AUV must be cordless ( without a tether cord ) and operated topside via remote control. This seems too big a design project for a one time effort as the cost is extreme. We had our chance when the ROV camera was used early on but we could not locate additional divers who would agree to carry the camera with its 2000 ft. tether cord farther back than 700 ft. I guaranteed the replacement cost of the ROV but was not emotionally rational to plan the next move or to have anyone available to encourage or plan the next best way to continue looking for Ben’s body. Everything went too fast it seems during the searches that many divers did and came up empty. What still concerns me is that cadaver dogs detected body decomposition scents a week later and again a month later using K9 dogs.

        There is much more we have found out but cannot release publicly. Ben’s case is still an open case. Our family is still involved in looking into his situation.

        Thank you for your concern.

        • I am so heartbroken to hear your family go thru so much pain and anguish. People need to remember what our parents should of taught us ” If you can -not say anything nice, then do not say anything at all!”

  29. I have dove Vortex a few times myself, but never past the gate as I’m not trained and do not have the equipment. Watching the movie ‘Ben’s Vortex’ I find it odd that they say his brother Paul died of a stroke when it was shown he died of a drug overdose. I’d like to know if Ben was involved in drugs and this could be a link to his disappearance. Some of the world’s best cave divers went into the cave and saw no markings and were pros and smaller than Ben so it is very doubtful Ben made it that far. I’m not sure as a parent I would be in denial about my kids and only want to think the best of them, but the facts stand. Ben was on strong drugs, had money problems and could have wanted to escape, was in trouble or Vortex wanted to cover up his death for fear of a lawsuit or a large loss of revenue. Usually, follow the money for answers. One diver has already died for sure and no reason more should be put at risk. I fear Ben was either died in the cave and was removed, murdered for money, drugs or love or just wanted to get away and start over to get away from it all. If he did start new I have a feeling someone close to him does know and is covering up for him. If no one has heard from him I fear he was murdered or dumped after being found dead.

    • Shelby McDaniel says:

      Steve, Yes, some of the best cave divers did go into the cave, and yes, there are many scenarios about what really happened that night—-no one really knows what happened, except Ben and the Lord. There is much I could tell you that the public is not privy to knowing! We have had “eyes” and “ears” around Holmes County for these three plus years, and there is coming a point in time I will reveal answers to most of the questions associated with our son’s disappearance. I must say what you and other divers saw in the documentary Robert attempted to write about is very misleading. Robert was extremely insensitive to our family, especially my wife, as to “whip-up” a false presentation of Ben and especially to attempt to bring our son ( Paul ) down in the gutter concerning digging up his autopsy and twisting it so! That was a real real low blow. In addition, Robert hired a “wanna-be” medicine man to twist the facts causing Paul’s death. Ben and Paul were both ADHD and were on the proper medication prescribed. It was extremely unprofessional to turn the facts around to try to portray both boys as being on “drugs” as you referred to. You have no idea! And, you should not post since you do not know anything of the facts.

      Back to the cave diver comment—-unknowing to you everyone reading this is that Edd and other divers did go into the cave, but they all went the wrong direction and the section they went to was a dead end—-but if Edd had gone the correct direction he would have gone to the point that Ben actually went to a month before—-but at Vortex Edd has not ever been in the part of the cave Ben was diving in!

      Money problems? No way! Ben had paid off all his known debts with the help of the family’s estate lawyers involved. Ben had access with a local bank to a very sizable amount should he need to. He never touched it! He was in line to a very sizeable inheritance. So, Steve, I just wanted you to know that you should not assume anything without knowing the facts. And oh yes, the reason there were no marks inside the cave where the divers went was because they went into a different portion of the cave ( as I mentioned earlier ).

      We know Ben had been preparing for deep dives. We are convinced he would not plan to “get away”. Our family is extremely close. We have been blessed to have had the privilege of thousands of good memories with all our sons. I am not angry with you by what you said. I feel is so sad the film that Robert put together was such a false presentation of Ben and our family. Robert and Jill came to our home and spent several days to get to know our family. He said at one point that after meeting our family and Ben’s true friends they couldn’t but help liking us. We aren’t perfect, but we are a very close-knit family who enjoy each other’s company.

      Ben asked could he move back home because he wanted to take care of us like he saw us do with my wife’s father, the boy’s grandfather, who had Parkinson’s. Ben was a caretaker. I remember on a boy scout canoe trip he jumped into the river and pulled two young boys to shore who had got caught up in a strong whirlpool. He took a neighbor who lived across the street to the doctor and hospital for ten years. the man’s family lived down the street but Bobby knew he could depend on him 24/7. Ben was working on his eagle scout at the time.

      Ben put himself through the University of Memphis and graduated with a degree in Construction Management; and then started his own construction company. He became very good at remodeling condos and homes. He also remodeled our barn on our property into a banquet hall for events and weddings. You can view it at http://www.maplegrovefarm.net.

      If I may say one more thing—Loosing two sons is almost too much for the mind and heart to manage. It is an emotional roller coaster journey the rest of our lives. We know both boys souls are in Heaven, and we will be with them again someday. If I get riled up a bit I’m sorry.( Paul’s heart recipient comes to see us every year. My wife gets to hear her sons heartbeat again.)

      We found Ben’s journal last year where he had documented his walk with the Lord the last year of his life. It was very emotional for me.

      Our family would love to be able to bring Ben’s remains home to bury over his brothers casket in the same gravesite. We had dug Paul up and buried him deeper to make room for Ben.

      My wife and I are grief leaders at our church. We try to help people who have lost a loved one learn to create a “new normal”. We are also volunteers for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation in Memphis as we go around to the local high schools and colleges to promote organ donation. We also are privileged to visit the local hospitals to comfort those waiting on an organ transplant and those who have received a transplant. We explain how the organ donation process works and how to get in touch with the donor families.

      I hope and pray you find some answers. We do not have them all ourselves.

      Do you have children? If so, please take the time to spend time with them, even if they are older.

      Thank you

      • I,m from Croatian I saw story on TV .My opinion the lake were dried .No surrender to I,m sorry guy .How much suffering and pain for the family ……

  30. In response to Steve, I don’t believe that Bens disappearance has anything to do with the death of his brother. To be more specific, you are assuming that what you saw in a movie is true. It has never been confirmed that Ben OR his brother were addicted to drugs or either demise was related to drugs at all. What has been confirmed is that Ben was hard on times and living in his parents home. That he had some issues with a former contractor and that he was pursuing being a diving instructor. For some reason Ben was infatuated with vortex and going beyond a point of his experience and knowledge. Another unexplained is the incorrect maps of his drawings of the vortex. Unfortunately, the lack of video surveillance in the parking lot has left all of us to our wildest imagination as to what happened to this young man (Ben) however, what happened with his younger brother is not up for debate, that is a completely different matter and I’m sure one that the Daniels family would like to keep private and personal, as well it should be. I’m sure we can all understand the importance of respect to them.
    God speed

  31. Mr. McDaniel,
    Your son Ben and your family have been and will continue to be in my prayers. You are living proof of the Faith that our Lord asks us to have. Like so many others, I can only speculate on what happened, and each time I try and make it make sense, I find myself hoping that he needed to clear his head and start over. I know that’s not the practical answer and after the loss of your younger son, Ben wouldn’t just take off. My heart goes out to you and I will continue to hope that Ben will be found and your family will have some answers. I can’t imagine your pain but I applaud the positive direction that you’ve channelled your focus and reached out to help others, you are an inspiration to many! God speed….Jennifer

  32. You wrote at the beginning that he was certified, but he was not. Check your facts!

  33. Elizabeth Morgan says:

    Mr. McDaniel ,
    As an avid watcher of anything on ID TV, the story of your son’s disappearance is one that
    continues to bother me. Upon reading the above comments, I am appalled that you’ve had to defend the deaths of Ben and Paul. A parent should never have to outlive a child, much less two. I commend the grief work that you and your wife do for others in similar situations. Although my educational background deals with mental health counseling and grief therapy; I cannot begin to understand the pain you live with. I – like many others here do appreciate your active communications and updates regarding the mystery surrounding Ben’s disappearance. The not knowing can be the most excruciating aspect – this is something that I can understand, and would never wish that upon anybody. I do hope that one day you and your family get the answers you deserve. Until then, I will keep you in my prayers.
    Peace be with you,
    Elizabeth Morgan

  34. Question I have is they say the shovel that was found was left by Steve Keene,I watched Ben’s Vortex and Robert says when he calls Shelby that Jill and her ex husband found a shovel,ANOTHER shovel and Jill says the same thing;ANOTHER shovel.How many shovels were found?And the “drunk” that showed up after hours to dive,where is he?All the attention this case has drawn I would think he would show up at the police station and tell them.Kelly says he ran him off before locking up,well didn’t he see Ben’s truck still there and say now who is this?It seems like he would have called Eduardo and asked is someone still down there?I don’t buy the disappearing theory at all.IF he did he would not be able to stay away from scuba diving,he would have to get recertified open water under his assumed identity:basically starting all over again in scuba.He would have to to be able to refill air tanks and rent equipment.It would be too hard this day in time unless you was a career criminal to get new identities and just drop off the radar.Maybe the family will get closure to this someday.

  35. Shelby McDaniel says:

    Our family has nothing new concerning Ben. I wish we did. Part of my heart believes he is in the extreme end of the cave beyond the fifth restriction where the wall appears to have crumbled. And, part of my heart believes Lowell Kelly and his employees knew something, especially since Kelly was on probation for trying to kill an employee with a baseball bat in 2009. Kelly’s death is still an open case too. With Ben situation, the local sheriff’s office did not treat it as a crime scene—if it had been I know I would have hired the best P.I. possible to investigate. We were advised by the locals to quit asking questions because it is a “good ole boys” town and no one would ever say anything! Probably one of the most unanswered questions is why were only three questions asked from the two employees. And, the other employee and Kelly were not put to the lie detector test as the sheriff’s office told us they did not think it was necessary! If it had been a robbery gone wrong, why was Ben’s wallet with $1100 in it left, his diving gear, cell phone and other valuable items left, including his truck and keys? Ben’s dog was in the house still. He would not have left his dog willingly! Ben also had $20K still in his bank account in Florida. As you see I am getting wound up a little so I need to stop. We miss our two boys so much. They were fun to be with. Ben’s walk with the Lord the last year of his life was in his journal.

  36. Was bens body ever found yet?

  37. My thoughts and prayers go out to the McDaniel family….God Bless You All

    • my thoughts and prayers go out to the family. my opinion is the vortex needs drained and closed , if it can be. I realize this is an underground spring. no family should have to go through this and I hope and pray answers will be found someday.

  38. Thoughts and prayers. I hope they find out what happened to there son.

  39. I just saw Ben’s story reaired this morning (January 4, 2016) & came to check for updates. Nothing new yet & still no body? I don’t think he’s in the cave @ all & how convenient none of the resort’s cameras worked… I think for reasons unknown Ben met foul play & the resort owner who is now dead was involved. No one noticed his truck for 2 days? I call BS. Too many crazy coincidences. Y’all need Lt. Joe Kenda… arguably the best detective in the world. He’s solved nearly 400 homicides. I look forward to any updates if there are any… My heart goes out to y’all! ❤❤

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