College professor who spent nine years in Air Force found dead nearly 300 feet underwater

Patrick Peacock a SCUBA instructor, Air Force veteran, and college professor was found dead with his friend almost 300 feet under water in a Florida cave system. (Facebook)

WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say the bodies of two divers have been recovered from underwater caves in the Tampa Bay area.

In an email, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said deputies were called Sunday evening to the Eagle’s Nest dive area in Weeki Wachee about two missing divers.

Moloney says Justin Blakely told the deputies that his two friends, and Chris Rittenmeyer, 38, had traveled from Fort Lauderdale to dive with him. Blakely said both were experienced divers familiar with the caves.

Blakely had stayed near the surface, and he alerted authorities several hours after and Rittenmeyer had been expected to check in.

Moloney says rescue divers located and Rittenmeyer’s bodies Monday in 260 feet of water in “a very dangerous and complex area of the cave system.”

Peacock, a nine year Air Force veteran, operated a non-profit dive group called Blue Zen Diver and worked as an adjunct professor at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where he taught history and philosophy.

“He loved nature and he wanted to protect it,” said Peacock’s wife, Devrim.. “He was not just an adventure seeker. He was a SCUBA instructor, an intellectual who loved reading and writing.”

The deaths have stunned the families of the two men, veterans of cave diving trips around Florida and in Mexico, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The Eagle’s Nest dive area site is not supervised but there are signs near the dock and below water  that warn divers of the possibility of death.

cave-system-warning-sign

Peacock and Rittenmeyer are the the ninth and 10th divers to die in the spring since 1981, according to press accounts and the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Autopsies have been scheduled.

Popular Military’s Michael Swaney contributed to this report

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