Tragic Incident at Beware Cave: The Story of Jesus Manriquez’s Dive

Incident LocationDiver’s Full Name
USA, UtahJesus Manriquez

Everyone knows that cave diving’s dangerous, but most people think the danger is reserved for certified divers who venture into caves no ordinary person ever would, right? Well, not always. Today’s story is an alarming example of how ordinary people with no cave diving experience can still end up in a deadly situation in an underground cave. It’s the story of a scenic family outing that turned into the five o’clock news and a caving incident nobody, least of all the victims, saw coming. This is the story of the incident at Beware Cave in 2004.

The Setting: Bates Family Ranch and Crystal Ball Cave

Our story begins in a remote region of Utah, about 250 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, right along the border with Nevada. There is a small camping site called Bates Family Ranch. Bates Family Ranch is a destination for lovers of the rustic outdoors. Hunters stay here, so do thrill-seekers looking to ride ATVs around the Great Basin. But one of the more unique attractions on offer at this remote camping site, and the one relevant to our story today, is Crystal Ball Cave. This impressive limestone cave is the Bates Family Ranch’s real claim to fame. First discovered in 1956, it is described as being a giant geode you can walk around in. All over the inside of the cave, from the walls to the ceiling to the floor beneath your feet, there is crystal.

Not far from the ranch and Crystal Ball Cave, there is another cave, but this cave is different. Very different. No shimmering crystals or family-friendly delights here. It says it all in the cave’s name: Beware Cave. As you’ll soon see, Beware Cave doesn’t get its name for nothing.

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The Adventure Begins: Searching for Beware Cave

In March of 2004, a group of family and friends show up at Bates Family Ranch in western Utah. Included in the group is 34-year-old Jesus Manriquez, a father of five. His family, his friends, and he are all looking to spend a few days camping, having fun, and exploring the area. At the top of their list, the group wants to make sure to book a tour of Crystal Ball Cave. The Bates family themselves offer guided tours for free to curious visitors. Day after day, they proudly display this glistening natural marvel that makes their ranch unlike any other in the world. But Jesus Manriquez is also interested in something else, something for which there are no guided tours. He wants to find Beware Cave. He’s heard it mentioned that Beware is, in fact, the source of a freshwater spring where the water is always a cozy 81 degrees Fahrenheit. He’s determined to find it for himself.

On Tuesday, March 23rd, Manriquez and his family and friends set out from Bates Family Ranch and begin the journey toward the ominous-sounding cave. They’ve been told it’s not far, less than two miles. Reemerging from the campsite reminds Manriquez and the others just how out in the wilderness they really are. The ranch is surrounded by mostly arid-looking land, sitting like a small oasis on the edge of the vast Great Basin. They drive up a winding dirt road for several minutes. A rocky peak with a distinctive shape called Spring Mountain grows taller in the foreground. They almost appear to be about to drive right up the side of it, but then they reach a sharp bend in the road. Soon, they realize it’s a loop with a gravel turnout at the apex. This is the spot. Pulling over and parking in the turnout, the group gets out and ambles toward the edge of the road, which faces the slope. Smiles quickly break out.

Right by the edge of this spot along the road, there’s a small body of water. It looks like a swimming pool built by nature. There’s even a small waterfall trickling in on one side. But amazingly, Manriquez and the others soon discover this pool is, in fact, only the middle pool of a group of three. A smaller one, roughly the size and shape of a Jacuzzi, sits further up the hill. Down below, there’s also a narrower pool with a steady flowing current. As family and friends begin swimming in these surprisingly warm and friendly waters of this remote oasis, Enriquez notices one other very crucial feature of the middle pool. At the other end of it, there is a cave. There are no signs marking it, but nevertheless, he knows this must be it. This must be the mysterious Beware Cave. Manriquez turns to his family and friends who are all playing or relaxing in the pool. “I’m going to explore the cave,” he says.

The Tragic Incident

As he’d hoped, Manriquez returns to Beware Cave with family and friends in tow. One by one, they follow his lead and swim underneath the stalactite blockade. As they wander through the ever-winding tunnel, feeling like the cast of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Manriquez and others reportedly start collecting rocks. The scene is remarkable. It’s hard to believe that only minutes ago, they were out in the desert in western Utah. It’s like they’ve suddenly been transported to another planet. But soon enough, members of the group start to grow uneasy. The tunnel is narrow and uncomfortably cramped. Just how far does this mysterious passageway actually go? Just how sure can they be that the water level is going to stay where it is? Manriquez’s friends and family say they’re turning back. Manriquez is initially disappointed, but he relents. They motion for Manriquez to come with them, but he declines. He says he wants to do more exploring and collect more rocks. Shrugging, his friends and family turn back and start making their way out of the cave, carrying the rocks they’ve collected with them. “Don’t be too long,” they warn him.

After coming back out into daylight, they spend the next few minutes reacquainting themselves with the pool and tranquil scenery. But a few more minutes go by, then a few more. Jesus Manriquez still has not returned. That afternoon, cave management is alerted that there may be an emergency situation. Wasting no time, rescue workers rush to the scene. There, they find the panicked friends and family of Jesus Manriquez entering the cave. Rescuers must contend with the same stalactite formation. They wind their way down the same otherworldly tunnel. Eventually, they find him. 34-year-old Manriquez is unconscious, and he’s not breathing. His body is wedged in the passage. Amid the sinister flashing of ambulance lights, Manriquez’s friends and family are told that he has been pronounced dead, the victim of an apparent drowning.

Unanswered Questions

This devastating news breaks across the region, with promises of more information once it becomes available. Yet, even today, answers remain undiscovered as to the exact nature of Manriquez’s untimely death. Special attention has been given to the stalactite blockage, which had to be traversed underwater, and understandably so. It increased the degree of danger at least tenfold. But was that really the reason why Manriquez drowned? Based on the available reports, it seems unlikely. According to an entry in the National Speleological Society database of caving accidents, Manriquez was found “wedged in the passage by the force of the water.” That’s not quite clear what that really means, and no other reports from the time seem to say anything other than simply that the man drowned, as if that sufficiently self-explanatory. It surely brings no comfort to the friends and family who were witness to this tragic accident that Manriquez’s death remains partially shrouded in mystery.

Despite the name Beware Cave, the cave and the spring pools outside of it continue to attract families to this day. Many of them even explore the same tunnel that claimed the life of Jesus Manriquez. In the end, Manriquez’s death goes to show that caving disasters are indeed not the sole experience of self-identified cavers. Ordinary people in seemingly ordinary circumstances can still wander into deadly danger and may not even realize it until it is too late.


What makes Crystal Ball Cave unique?

Crystal Ball Cave is known for its impressive limestone formations, creating a giant geode that visitors can walk around in.

Why is Beware Cave named as such?

Beware Cave gets its name due to its dangerous nature and potential risks associated with exploring it.

Are guided tours available for Crystal Ball Cave?

Yes, guided tours are offered by the Bates family at their ranch to showcase the natural marvel of Crystal Ball Cave.

Can visitors still explore the tunnels of Beware Cave?

Yes, visitors can still explore the tunnels of Beware Cave, but it is important to exercise caution and be aware of potential dangers.

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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