Tragedy at Wales Cave Complex: The Demise of Bonnie Cotier

Tragedy at Wales Cave Complex: The Demise of Bonnie Cotier
Incident LocationDiver Full Names
Wales, Clydach Gorge Bonnie Cotier

Everything she does is with a touch of excellence. She leaves nothing undone until they have satisfied her professional taste. If you’re seeking a professional cave explorer, Bonnie Cotier would have been one of the best options available.

The cave complex is located in Clydach Gorge near Gilwern, Wales. The cave complex has different tall avens which are linked by tight rifts and low muddy crawls. An aven is a vertical pillar that rises from a cave tunnel and occasionally connects to passageways above. Cave divers visit the cave less frequently because it’s located far from the extreme, as muddy and tight passages, and is made up of sharp rocks. Here’s a fact about this cave that will shock you.

Hidden Entrance

Have you been in a cave whose entrance can only be seen when you are right beside it? You can be sure the restrictions that will be within such a cave will be greater than the ones you encountered at the entrance. This is true of the Gorge cave complex, where the entrance is located under the rock on a small grass ledge.

Clydach Gorge map

The entrance tube is just the size of a human body and it leads directly to the top of the first pitch. You have to go through the bottom of the first pitch to enter the first aven. This has a passage that can be followed back under the pitch, which is at the entrance heading to the surface of the cave. The way to the second aven, which is seven feet (two meters) from the ground, is through a rift with a tight squeeze. Then, you will make a 33-foot (10-meter) crawl to get to a ledge 16 feet (5 meters) above the floor of the third aven.

Then, you will go through another ledge to the left and climb down 16 feet (5 meters) with a knotted rope to enter the fourth aven, which is large and impressive. As you progress through the even, you will encounter a lot of sticky mud. Afterward, you can then proceed to the fifth and sixth haven through many hurdles.

Bonnie Cotier

Bonnie Cotier, a 52-year-old American native of Washington DC, was a creative director and instructor who has worked with different businesses and agencies in Washington. She graduated from the University of Maryland. After her college days at Hawthorne School, Bonnie Cotier was married to Steve Francis Huben, who is also a cave explorer.

They both lived in Saint Nude’s, Cambridgeshire. She moved together with her family to different countries, which included Germany, Tampa Florida, and the United Kingdom. In June 2009, though many couples have different passions and they pursue them separately, the case of Bonnie and Steve was different. Both partners had a lot in common, and they both shared their passion for diving. They both went for cave diving training and were qualified for international cave diving. They both had journeyed to France, Mexico, and the United States for diving adventures. It’s more enjoyable to have your partner dive with you.

However, Steve was absent on the last adventure Bonnie embarked on. The reason for his unavoidable absence was that he had some commitments at work. He didn’t only love diving, but the journey to and from cave sites was always pleasurable for him. They began scuba diving in 1999 and later moved to cave diving because of Steve’s work at RAF Molesworth.

They both moved to Huntingtonshire. Bonnie was also a member of the Huntingtonshire-based Inspired Group. This is a group dedicated to motivating people who are venturing into their businesses. She was always full of life and commanded the respect of everyone around her. Any opportunity people had to talk with her, they were always grateful for the amazing words she spoke to them. She was honest and straight-talking. Bonnie was a renowned member of the cave diving community and also had her own design company, Golden Dog Corporate Communications. She was both a member and great supporter of a networking group for Cambridge-based businesses, CAM Creative. Bonnie was always friends with everyone she met, and her life inspired people around her.

The Dive

On April 23, 2011, Bonnie Cotier went for a dive at the Gorge complex with Martin Farr, a Welsh diving instructor who was not just a professional diving instructor but also had many years of experience, as he had been diving for over 40 years. He met Bonnie, a fellow diver, at a meeting in Yorkshire and made arrangements for himself and Bonnie to accompany Duncan Price on his diving research at the caves. His aim in diving was to take photos of a restricted part of the cave, which is located about 49 feet (15 meters) away from the entrance. In this cave, a guideline was placed 82 feet (25 meters) into the cave to prevent inexperienced divers from diving farther into the cave because it was dangerous. The air cylinders of these three divers had enough air for them to dive for 45 minutes.

When they began diving, they were going according to the laid-down plan. Martin and Bonnie, who were standing close to the entrance, helped as photography assistants to take the required photographs by Duncan in the restricted part of the cave, which was the purpose of the visit. Duncan, engrossed in the research and cave mapping, dove further, leaving behind Martin and Bonnie at the entrance restricted site. Martin attached another guideline to the permanent guideline for Bonnie to be able to go through the restriction and enjoy her dive around the cave as it was her first time in this cave.

Tragedy Strikes

45 minutes into the dive, Bonnie was not yet at the surface. This became a concern to Martin, who quickly rushed into the cave, not minding that he was running low on air. Getting into the cave, he found Bonnie alive at a short distance from the main guideline. He quickly caught her by the harness and drew her forward. Suddenly, Bonnie broke away from his hand and headed in the wrong direction. Martin hurriedly returned to the surface to call for the assistance of his diving partner to help him bring air from his house, which was six miles (10 kilometers) away from the cave complex. Also, emergency services were called. In addition to the air he requested, on getting back, Duncan dove into the cave again in search of Bonnie. But unfortunately, when he found her body, it was hanging vertically in the water. Her two seven-liter air cylinders were empty when they checked, and she was no longer wearing her regulator in her mouth. Though there was a diving line around her waist, it could have been cut by Bonnie to free herself. There might have been a possible entanglement that would have hindered her from returning to the entrance. Bonnie Cotier’s death was confirmed by Dr. Grant Evans, a pathologist, to be a result of drowning.

What Went Wrong?

You might be thinking that she went too far. However, Bonnie, who had been qualified for international cave diving, didn’t dive beyond her capabilities. Only that the cave was new to her. She was an experienced cave diver who did not need a connecting guideline with her diving partners, which was a required standard of international diving practice.

What could have caused the death of an experienced cave diver in a new cave? It wasn’t the malfunctioning of any of her equipment, nor was it injuries. It must have been that she lost her way to the exit of the cave since she wasn’t familiar with the cave. It is clear that she missed her way, but what could have made a professional miss the guideline inside the cave that eventually cost her life? After much struggle to find her way, coupled with running out of air, she drowned and died. This wasn’t new to cave divers who were always on a risky adventure exploring caves, both new and those they are used to. Cave divers mainly have two options while diving: either to come out safely or die in the pursuit of their dreams. But they wouldn’t allow this fear to stop them.

Remembering Bonnie

Bonnie Cotier will be deeply missed by her best diving partner and loving husband, Steve Francis Huben. They had both shared diving passions together, traveling to various countries for different diving adventures. She will forever be remembered for her activeness and passion for so many things, aside from cave exploration.

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Who is Bonnie Cotier?

Bonnie Cotier was a professional cave explorer known for her excellence and passion for cave diving. She was a creative director and instructor, and she had worked with various businesses and agencies. Bonnie was an experienced cave diver and had international cave diving qualifications.

Where is the cave complex located?

The cave complex is located in Clydach Gorge near Gilwern, Wales. It consists of tall avens connected by tight rifts and low muddy crawls. The complex is known for its sharp rocks, muddy and tight passages, and its distance from extreme locations.

How is the entrance to the Gorge cave complex hidden?

The entrance to the Gorge cave complex is hidden under a rock on a small grass ledge. The entrance tube is just the size of a human body and leads directly to the top of the first pitch. From there, visitors can navigate through various passages and avens within the cave complex.

What happened during Bonnie Cotier’s dive?

During Bonnie Cotier’s dive at the Gorge complex, she was accompanied by Martin Farr, a diving instructor, and Duncan Price, a researcher. Bonnie and Martin assisted Duncan with his research by taking photographs in a restricted part of the cave. Tragically, Bonnie encountered difficulties during the dive, lost her way, and drowned.

What might have caused Bonnie Cotier’s death?

Bonnie Cotier, despite being an experienced cave diver, lost her way in the unfamiliar cave complex. It is believed that she ran out of air and drowned while attempting to find the exit. The exact cause of her death was determined to be drowning.

Rebecca Penrose
Rebecca, an experienced blogger, delves into the world of diving accidents, sharing insights, stories, and valuable lessons learned. Dive in and explore the depths of underwater safety.
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