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Tragic story of cave diver who died while exploring the dangerous Bushman's Hole

Tragic story of cave diver who died while exploring the dangerous Bushman's Hole

And the man who died trying to retrieve his body

Warning: This article contains content which some readers may find upsetting

Today we're taking a look at the tragic story of cave diver who died while exploring the dangerous Bushman's Hole - and the man who died while trying to retrieve him.

Needless to say, if you're claustrophobic in any way, you might want to grab your nearest support cushion while you read through this.

The case was explored by master storyteller and YouTuber MrBallen, who started off by explaining that Bushman's Hole is an incredible diving spot - but it doesn't come without risks.

Boesmansgat, as it's officially known, is a deep submerged freshwater cave in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.

"If you hike down the crater to the middle, there's this little tiny basin of water that almost looks like an oversized puddle. This is the entrance to Bushman's Hole," explained MrBallen.

Once you 'step into this little puddle and push your way through the very claustrophobia-inducing entrance', you're rewarded with one of the largest freshwater caves in the world at 393 feet long, 328 feet wide and 927 feet deep.

MrBallen continued: "For the people that have been in there, they say it's unbelievable and it's like spacewalking."

The location is a risky place to explore.
YouTube/Dan Wright

But despite the draw of the location, leading to numerous broken world records over the years, anyone who takes on the challenge is putting themselves at risk.

Bushman's Hole has taken a number of lives over the years, including Deon Dreyer, an enthusiastic scuba diver from South Africa.

The idea of visiting the sinkhole was a pipe dream for him, and so when a diving group invited him to go to Bushman's Hole in 1994, Dreyer jumped at the chance.

Although their expedition started out well, not long into their journey, Dreyer disappeared.

The diver in front of him soon realised that he was sinking into the murky depths, with MrBallen saying: "Deon was sinking so quickly that this diver realised that it's a suicide mission [to retrieve him]."

Tragically, no one ever knew for sure what happened to the diver, although his parents were told that he most likely suffered from a deep water blackout before falling to the bottom.

Authorities tried to retrieve the body using robotics but to no avail, and his parents had to commemorate their son by laying a plaque beside Bushman's Hole's entrance.

The entrance to Boesmansgat is incredibly claustrophobic.
YouTube/Dan Wright

But this all changed ten years later with the arrival David Shaw.

As explained by MrBallen: "Dave Shaw, who was a 50-year-old extremely audacious cave diver, was passing the 800-ft mark inside of Bushman's Hole.

"Shaw touched down on the sloping bottom of the cave, he detached from the cave reel, took out his flashlight and began swimming around the bottom.

"As he was scanning around, he looked about 50 feet to his left and he saw something he immediately recognised - it was a human body.

"They were on their back with their arms stretched out towards the surface, and when Shaw went over to them, he immediately recognised that this is Deon Dreyer."

Unfortunately Shaw couldn't lift the body as the oxygen tanks were caught on something. Not wanting to die down there himself, he attached something to the remains and headed up to the surface.

He immediately got in touch with Dreyer's parents and promised them he'd retrieve the body and bring their boy home.

Shaw and a team of divers prepared for the 12-hour mission, which took place in January 2005.

He decided to film the whole thing on a camera attached to his helmet, and when the day arrived, he travelled down and got to work.

Nearly 15 minutes after Shaw had submerged, the diver who was slotted above him started looking for signs that he was done.

When he saw there was no movement from below, the diver went into rescue mode - but soon after he started swimming, he heard a strange sound and noticed his gauge had broken, a piece of kit that was vital to the dive.

He shared the sad news to the person at the next decompression stop using a slate that said 'Dave's not coming back'.

This message was passed along, eventually reaching the surface where Dreyer's parents were waiting.

David Shaw died while trying to help others.
Wikimedia Commons

The news was so shocking that the rest of the team left their gear and went home. When they did eventually go back to retrieve it, they started pulling up the line - as it moved closer to the surface, they found both Shaw and Dreyer's bodies attached to it.

"Basically Shaw had been attached to this line, and he had managed to free Deon before he had passed," added MrBallen.

"And so when they pulled the line, both of them were freed and they floated to the surface."

Using the camera that was still attached to Shaw's head, the team were able to analyse his final moments, concluding that he most likely suffered from nitrogen narcosis, a condition that deep divers can run into that makes them feel intoxicated and disorientated.

While the story ended in the most tragic way possible, Shaw continues to be remembered for his bravery - and for finally bringing closure to the Dreyer family.

Featured Image Credit: MoiraM / Eugene Sergeev / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: World News, Health, Travel