A US cave-diver with the KISS Rebreathers dive-team died at a depth of around 60m in Roaring River Spring near Cassville, Missouri yesterday (14 October).
Eric Hahn, 27, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was said to be an experienced group-member who had dived regularly at the site. He died at around 11.30am and fellow dive-team members recovered his body to the surface, where emergency services attended the scene.
Hahn was reported to have been staging tanks when the fatal incident occurred. Missouri State Highway Patrol told the Springfield News-Leader that “preliminary speculation” pointed to equipment malfunction, but that an investigation was underway and a post mortem examination scheduled.
Last year the newspaper had reported on how the KISS team was engaged in a long-term project to explore the limestone caves deep below Roaring River State Park. They were creating a 3D model of the system and a video documentary for the park’s visitor centre.
Earlier dive-teams had explored the caves in 1979 and 1999 as far as they could using open-circuit scuba, but it was only in 2021 that the KISS team had made a breakthrough past a narrow restriction at a depth of 70m to discover a large chamber beyond it and reach depths beyond 100m.
The team had been diving on one weekend each month, and the day before Hahn’s death park staff had hosted an event for the public to meet the divers.
“The KISS dive-team has made history by not only squeezing past the restriction, but also mapping and filming hundreds of feet beyond what was once considered the ‘bottom’ of the spring,” stated the park, adding that the team would “show off their modern equipment and explain how they safely navigate the dark underwater cavern”.
Lead exploratory diver and KISS Rebreathers owner Mike Young had emphasised last year that the team took “every precaution possible”, including not only a guideline but at least 15 bail-out tanks staged through the system in case of problems, and safety divers on standby. “We have thousands of hours on rebreathers and very few failures ever, but we still plan for them because they can be catastrophic,” he had said.