30 year old Ben McDaniel was last seen in Vortex Spring, Florida on August 18, 2010. He disappeared during a dive in an underwater cave.

Background of Ben McDaniel

Benjamin Wayne McDaniel was born in Memphis, Tennessee on April 15, 1980 to Shelby and Patty McDaniel. He grew up in Collierville, Tennessee, as the oldest of three children.

McDaniel was a scuba diver who had started when he was fifteen years old. He was a certified open water diver who was studying to become a cave diver.

McDaniel relocated to his parents’ beach house on Florida’s Emerald Coast in April 2010. He was four months into a “sabbatical” following his divorce, the failure of his construction business, and the death of his younger brother two years earlier in 2008.

He had been diving in fresh water on a regular basis at Vortex Spring, a small vacation spot about an hour from Destin, Florida, near his parents’ beach house.

Details of Disappearance

McDaniel spent a week in Tennessee with his parents in early August 2010. He told them he was studying to become a diving instructor in order to eventually open a diving-related business.

He left Collierville and returned to Florida on August 15, 2010.

McDaniel went to Vortex Spring on August 18, 2010, for a dive into an underwater cave 58 feet below the water’s surface. After resurfacing, he filled his tanks at a nearby dive shop and spent the afternoon testing equipment and making notes in his dive log alongside the spring.

Later that evening, around 7:30 p.m., he began descending again for another dive. McDaniel never returned home and has yet to be found.

When employees from a nearby dive shop discovered Ben’s GMC pickup truck still parked in the shop’s parking lot on August 20, 2010, they contacted the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigation of Case

Ben McDaniel left several items in the cab of his truck, including a wallet containing $681 in cash, his driver’s licence, a cell phone, dive logs documenting the cave’s exploration, and a map he created. According to phone records, the last call he made the night he went missing was to his mother.

He left his dog behind at the Santa Rosa Beach house. McDaniel never resurfaced, and police suspected he drowned somewhere in the cave during his dive.

Divers scoured nearly the entire cave for months, except for a dangerous area in the cave’s back, but found no trace of his body. Two tanks belonging to McDaniel were discovered near the cave’s entrance.

Cave divers thought the placement was strange, because tanks are usually placed like life-saving bread crumbs along a cave diver’s path so they have plenty of air when they emerge. In addition, the tanks only contained air, whereas deep diving would normally require a gas mix.


There was no evidence, means, or motive for foul play in Ben McDaniels’ disappearance, according to police. In 2013, the state of Florida declared him legally dead.

His family has offered a $30,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the location of Ben McDaniel or his body. The reward was later revoked due to fears that inexperienced divers might be killed during the search.

The circumstances of Ben McDaniel’s disappearance remain unclear and his case is currently classified as missing. His case remains unsolved.


Physical Description:
Caucasian male. Brown hair and blue eyes His hairline is receding. He stands 6’1″ and weighs 210 pounds.

Clothing and accessories:
A black scuba diving suit, C130 scuba tanks, goggles, yellow fins, a dive computer, and possibly small round earrings.

Investigating Agency

If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Ben McDaniel please contact the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 547-3681.

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