Tragedy Strikes at Cathedral Cave: The Heartbreaking Story of Diver Rosa Diego

Tragedy Strikes at Cathedral Cave: The Heartbreaking Story of Diver Rosa Diego
Incident LocationDiver Full Name
Punta Sur, Cozumel Island, MexicoRosa Diego

Exploring the Depths of Punta Sur

Cozumel is a renowned Caribbean diving destination in Mexico. Its allure lies in its crystal-clear waters, offering excellent visibility for exploring vibrant coral reefs and a diverse array of marine life. One of the most sought-after spots in Cozumel is Punta Sur, situated within the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park. Divers can venture to depths ranging from 60 to 130 feet, but it’s crucial to note that this dive site is reserved for experienced divers.

Dive Site Overview

Punta Sur boasts two significant sections. The southern part features deep and wide passages, plunging as deep as 110 feet, and even includes a mesmerizing chamber known as “The Cathedral.” However, it’s important to exercise caution due to the strong currents in this area. On the northern side, you’ll find “Devil’s Throat,” a narrow tunnel that descends at a 45-degree angle, reaching depths of up to 135 feet. This twisting tunnel leads to a network of passageways, guiding divers back through the coral.

A Challenging Dive

Punta Sur is an adventure reserved for seasoned divers. The underwater currents can be unpredictable, and surface conditions can be windy. If you’re not confident in your diving abilities, it’s advisable to choose a different dive spot.

The Beginnings of a Dive Buddy Friendship

Meet Rosa Diego, a 27-year-old woman, and Catalina Jose, 28, childhood friends from Mexico who shared a deep bond. They not only attended the same college but also pursued veterinary medicine. Their friendship deepened due to their shared love of swimming, which eventually led them to the world of cave diving. During their cave diving training, they met two experienced divers, Carlos and James, who played pivotal roles in their journey.

Bonds Strengthened Below and Above the Water

As fate would have it, Rosa married Carlos, while Catalina found her soulmate in James. These two couples became renowned for their passion for underwater exploration. Their next destination was Punta Sur, where they decided to embark on an exhilarating cave diving adventure.

Two Teams, One Adventure

The four divers divided into two teams: Rosa and Carlos formed the first, and Catalina and James comprised the second. Rosa and Catalina were relatively new to cave diving, having recently obtained their certifications with only a month’s worth of experience. In contrast, Carlos and James were seasoned divers, with Carlos being an advanced diver and cave instructor, boasting over 650 hours of cave diving experience.

A Plan Unfolds

Carlos and Rosa would dive first into the Devil’s Throat, a narrow tunnel that demanded a reliable diving light. Catalina and James had to wait for their turn to explore the Cathedral, as their light was malfunctioning. Rosa, with her adventurous spirit, eagerly anticipated the challenging swim through Devil’s Throat.

Descending into the Abyss

The two teams reached their dive location and commenced their underwater journey. Carlos, with his extensive cave diving experience, led the way through a narrow tunnel, known as the foyer, at a depth of 80 feet. As they ventured deeper, the surroundings grew darker. However, a stunning blue light ahead provided a breathtaking spectacle of coral formations, despite the absence of fish.

A World Beneath the Waves

Rosa’s excitement grew as they approached an underwater cliff bathed in sunlight. At a depth of 135 feet, Carlos reminded her of their limited air supply, curbing her desire to explore further. They proceeded to the Cathedral, where they reunited with Catalina and James.

Unforeseen Challenges

As they explored the Cathedral, Carlos noted the powerful water current, a detail they hadn’t investigated beforehand. This serves as a reminder that thorough research and preparation are essential when diving in unfamiliar caves. Safety should always be a top priority.

Around 110 feet below the surface, they marveled at the Cathedral’s grandeur, a vast underground space offering ample room for swimming.

A Dangerous Turn of Events

As they continued their dive in the Cathedral, the divers encountered a sudden change in water conditions. The current, previously manageable, grew dangerously strong. Panic set in as they struggled to maintain their positions. James, in the grip of the powerful current, lost his mask and rebreather, making breathing difficult. Desperate to help, he attempted to re-enter the cavern.

A Cry for Help

Inside the cave, James realized the need for assistance. Simultaneously, Carlos, Rosa’s husband, found himself swept out of the underground space by the relentless current. James noticed Catalina, who had lost consciousness but still clung to her breathing device. He swam to her rescue, pulling her onto the boat.

A Frantic Search

Carlos, determined to find his wife, Rosa, re-entered the water and spotted her. She was trapped among rocks, her breathing device missing, with her diving tank partially keeping her pinned. Carlos reattached her breathing device while trying to free her. However, another surge of the current forced him away from Rosa.

A Glimmer of Hope

Carlos, drawing upon his years of cave diving experience, skillfully navigated back to Rosa, who remained trapped. James, now on the boat, called the authorities and attended to Catalina. They both returned to assist Carlos in freeing Rosa, but their efforts proved futile. With their air supply dwindling, they faced a difficult decision.

A Heart-Wrenching Decision

James insisted that they ascend to the surface, leaving Rosa behind, as they were running out of air. Carlos, torn by the situation, reluctantly agreed, believing that help would arrive soon. They returned to the boat, knowing they had done all they could for the moment.

A Tragic Outcome

Rescue divers arrived at the Cathedral, but it was too late. Rosa had exhausted her air supply. Despite their efforts, she could not be saved. The sight of Rosa in such a state was heart-wrenching, leaving Carlos devastated.

In the wake of this tragic incident, Carlos made the difficult decision to never dive again.


Where is Punta Sur located, and what makes it a popular diving destination?

Punta Sur is located in Cozumel Island, Mexico, within the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park. It’s renowned for crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life, making it a sought-after spot for experienced divers.

Is Punta Sur suitable for novice divers, and what challenges might they face?

No, Punta Sur is reserved for experienced divers due to unpredictable underwater currents and challenging conditions. Novice divers are advised to choose a different dive spot.

What happened during the tragic incident at Punta Sur, and why did Carlos make the decision to stop diving?

During a cave dive at Punta Sur, experienced divers encountered unexpectedly strong currents. Rosa, one of the divers, tragically ran out of air and couldn’t be saved. Devastated by the loss, Carlos made the difficult decision to never dive again.

Patrick Broin
Patrik, a seasoned cave diver, shares his first-hand experiences and expert insights on the treacherous world of cave diving accidents.
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