Tragedy Strikes in Palinuro, Italy: The Heartbreaking Tale of the Lost Divers in the Depths of Blood Cave

Incident LocationDiver Full Names
Palinuro, ItalyMauro Cammardella, Mauro Tancredi, Silvio Anzola

We are back with one of the most disturbing and tragic cave diving incidents that took place in Palinuro, Italy. 12 Italian scuba divers went for underwater cave exploration when things went horrifyingly wrong. Who knew that their passion would lead them into a tragedy! This is their story. On Friday, August 19, 2016, 12 divers went diving in the heavenly beautiful underwater caves of Palinuro, Italy.

It is a small Italian town located 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Salerno, Italy. Palinuro is a great tourist attraction, particularly during the summer. It has one of the most appreciated seaside resorts of Cilento, which is popular for its crystal clear sea and sandy beaches. There are some stunning caves along the coastline, such as Blue Grotto (Blue Cave) and Grotta del Sangue (Blood Cave), which can be explored by cave divers.

Dangerous Seabeds and Caves

It is no news that the seabeds and caves off the coast of Palinuro are dangerous and diving them is welcoming risks. These seabeds and caves have counted many diving deaths over the years. Back in 1984, on August 16th, two young Friulian underwater speleologists died in the waters of the ‘Cala fetente’.

On June 30, 2012, another accident was reported, in the waters of Palinuro, where four divers lost their lives. It was believed that the roof of the cave collapsed. Last to mention in the order of time, an incident took place in the area of the Blood Cave, where four divers luckily managed to escape. On August 19th, 2016, the group of 12 scuba divers went to explore the beauty of the underwater Palinuro’s caves in Italy.

The Missing Divers

Among them, there were three divers: Mauro Cammardella, the owner of a local diving centre, Mauro Tancredi, a local man & Silvio Anzola from Milan. They were all experienced scuba divers. Cammardella and Tancredi were diving instructors of the best known diving centres in Palinuro. August’ 2016 , it was a Friday morning when these three expert scuba divers were among a group of 12 divers who went diving in the waters of Palinuro.

The Dive and the Disappearance

One of the rules of cave diving is to get yourself familiar with the weather conditions right before you go diving, else you might end up struggling for your life in the middle of the ocean. The dive was all planned and everything was set, from maintaining a guideline to light sources and the rule of thirds for gas management.

For those of you who are not familiar with the rule of thirds, listen closely. When cave diving, one third of the total air supply is used for entering the cave, the second third is used for exiting the cave, and the last third is only used in case of emergencies. The dive was supposedly on a wall called “Imersione in Parete,” but in this wall, a few caves open.

All of the group members returned safely except the three. The three missing divers failed to re-emerge after the dive at around 10 am. The fellow divers waited for them for quite some time but to no avail. After a few hours of waiting, the matter got on their nerves. They searched for the three divers, but none of the members found them, which left them in chaos.

The Hope Fades Away

The three divers Mauro Cammardella, Silvio Anzola, and Mauro Tancredi went missing, and there was no hope of finding them. It was surprising because those three divers who went missing at Palinuro were highly professional scuba divers. There was no trace of the missing divers. The searches continued throughout the night, but no favorable outcomes were obtained from the research.

The negative result weakened any hope of finding them still alive. Now, they had no other option but to report the missing divers to the authorities. Fabio Barbieri, a 61-year-old man from Genoa, who has been in Palinuro since 1983. He was an expert diver and was the first to map the tunnel of the ‘Scaletta’.

The Dangerous Tunnel

He feared that the three missing divers might have been trapped in that tunnel. The tunnel is not a good place for beginners to explore. It extends to a length of 52 ft (16 m) and has a height of 4 ft (1.5 m). The complexity of the tunnel brings in huge danger and risk of accidents which explains why it is not recommended for beginning cave divers.

Although the divers were expert scuba divers, many suspect that they were not certified for cave diving. It was anticipated that they perished inside the cave, probably trapped. According to Fabio, who mapped this hard-to-explore tunnel, there is an air bubble in the cave, but it doesn’t sustain life for long.

It is assumed that the three divers might have been stuck in the destructed and narrow tunnel. It probably took a bit too long for them to escape and they lost their lives. The Port Authority asked Fabio to dive when the SOS arrived, but he responded in the negative, saying that the water was cloudy so he couldn’t see anything.

Grief and Recovery Efforts

He explained, “That tunnel is not at all easy to cross – both due to its narrowness and the muddy bottom. Anything could have happened to the three divers: a technical problem, an illness, or a phase of breathlessness.” In the meantime, on various social media platforms, many people expressed their pain and grief over the tragedy at Palinuro.

On Cammardella’s Facebook page, next to the photos posted by his daughter on her brother’s 18th Birthday, many people expressed their sorrow. There were those who couldn’t believe the accident actually took place and admit it just happened. When Violetta talked about Mauro Cammardella and Mauro Tancredi as “two very serious professionals and two very good people,” Pietro expressed his thoughts by saying, “But how can it happen, with you only diving in total safety.”

The research continued in the affected area, including the waters of Palinuro, the “Air Bubble,” and the hamlet of Centola in Salerno. The area where the accident took place operated five vessels of the Palinuro Harbor Master’s Office, directed by the ship lieutenant Andrea Palma, and the paleo subs of the Fire Brigade.

Recovery Efforts

When the bodies couldn’t be found despite the hard work by the researchers and the authorities, the only option they had was to conduct the reclamation of the tunnel. It was decided during a briefing at the Port Authority to carry out the reclamation of the tunnel by the rock climbers to recover the divers.

Andrea Palma, the ship lieutenant and commander of the Maritime District of Palinuro, was supervising the reclamation of the tunnel. Andrea Palma stated that this was a very complex operation, and the inspection of the cavity requires the utmost attention. Meanwhile, a team of psychologists went to the families of the victims of the Palinuro cave to talk to them.

The Fate of the Divers

Expert divers explained that the wall of the “Imersione in Parete” must have been the point where the trouble began, as this wall has some openings which lead to a few caves. It was feared that they went into the cave opening of Scaleta, which was 164 ft (50 m) deep. The Scaleta cave was found blocked with silt, and its inner side was decomposed.

The air bubble in the cave is the zone of danger where none can sustain life for long. Divers who have explored the narrow tunnel in the past suspected that the three missing divers might have been trapped in the silted tunnel. At first, the rescuers lost hope of finding the missing divers as they couldn’t find any traces of them.

However, after a four-hour search, the rescue team located two of the three divers’ bodies, namely Mauro Cammardella and Mauro Tancredi. Their funerals were held in Palinuro on Wednesday. It seemed impossible for the rescuers to get the body of the last diver, Silvio Anzola, out due to the narrowness of the cave passage he got stuck in.

However, on Thursday, six days after the divers entered the cave, the body of Silvio Anzola, who died 164 ft (50 m) deep underwater cave of Palinuro, was recovered by the rescue team. Because of the depth of the cave, speleologists from the fire brigade were assisting in efforts to recover the bodies. This was the tragic story of the three Italian scuba divers who lost their lives in the waters of Palinuro.

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What happened in the cave diving incident in Palinuro, Italy?

On August 19, 2016, a group of 12 Italian scuba divers went for cave diving in Palinuro, Italy. Unfortunately, three experienced divers, Mauro Cammardella, Silvio Anzola, and Mauro Tancredi, failed to re-emerge after the dive. Despite extensive search efforts, their bodies were not immediately found.

Were the missing divers certified for cave diving?

While the missing divers were experienced scuba divers, there are suspicions that they were not certified for cave diving. Cave diving requires specialized training due to the complex and potentially dangerous nature of exploring underwater caves.

Why were the caves off the coast of Palinuro considered dangerous?

The seabeds and caves off the coast of Palinuro have been associated with several diving deaths over the years. These underwater caves can be treacherous due to factors such as collapsed roofs, narrow passages, and limited air supply. It is a known risk to dive in these caves.

How did the recovery efforts take place?

After the initial search efforts proved unsuccessful, the authorities decided to conduct the reclamation of the tunnel where the divers were suspected to be trapped. Rock climbers were tasked with recovering the bodies from the silted and narrow tunnel. Eventually, the bodies of Mauro Cammardella, Mauro Tancredi, and Silvio Anzola were located and recovered.

What were the conditions in the underwater cave where the divers were trapped?

The divers were believed to have entered a cave opening called Scaleta, which was 164 ft (50 m) deep. The cave had silt blocking its entrance and was considered a dangerous area where the air bubble did not sustain life for long. The narrowness and decomposition of the tunnel added to the complexity and risks faced by the divers.

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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