A diver with an exploration team died Saturday after an apparent accident deep in the underwater caverns of the famed Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, New Mexico.
Shane Thompson, 43, of San Diego, an experienced diver with the ADM Exploration Foundation, died Saturday after he went missing during his team’s much-anticipated exploration of the Blue Hole’s caverns more than 160 feet below the surface, according to today’s print edition of Guadalupe County Communicator, based in Santa Rosa.
The newspaper reported another experienced diver with the team, Mike Young, nearly died Saturday as well during a “chaotic series of events” at the end of the team’s mission.
The exploration turned into a recovery mission for Thompson’s body. His remains eventually were brought to the surface Easter Sunday.
The tragedy over the weekend occurred 40 years after two Oklahoma scuba divers died in the Blue Hole’s underwater caverns in March 1976. It took New Mexico State Police divers weeks to recover one of the bodies. After that, the city of Santa Rosa installed a safety grate over the entrance to the caverns at the Blue Hole’s bottom.
The ADM team recently received permission from the city to explore the Blue Hole’s many caves.
After Thompson’s body was brought to the surface, ADM’s divers reinstalled the city’s safety grate. It’s doubtful the city of Santa Rosa ever will again let anyone try to explore the Blue Hole’s underwater caverns.
The Blue Hole is a natural, 80-foot-deep sink that spews 3,000 gallons of water a minute. It’s known for its clear waters and constant 62-degree temperature. It’s been a popular recreational spot since the 1970s for Route 66 travelers and non-66ers alike. The Blue Hole’s depth also makes it useful for scuba-diver training.
(Image of the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, in 2009 by Jayjay P via Flickr)