Tragic Incident at Tank Cave: Lucas Major’s Fateful Dive

Incident LocationDiver Names
Mount Gambier, South Australia, Tank CaveMatt Parker, Lucas Major

There is a reason why experienced cave divers and coaches always advise that everyone planning a dive should stick to their dive plan. Lucas Major and his friend Matt Parker had successfully dived and explored the famous Tank Cave and were about to ascend. But Lucas redirected upon diving and citing an unexplored passageway unknown to him, a terrible fate awaited him right there in the deep waters of Tank Cave.

The Mount Gambier area

The Mount Gambier area in South Australia is known for its many caves and sinkholes, but one in particular, Tank Cave, is considered the most impressive by cave divers. Tank Cave received its name because it used to have a water tank positioned above the entrance. This extensive and complex cave system spans over four miles of passages, making it one of Australia’s longest caves.

Tank Cave’s entrance is located on private property and is tightly controlled by the Cave Divers Association of Australia. To access the cave, one must descend a short ladder to an underground entrance. Fixed lines are present throughout most of the cave, but some of the side passages require jumps. Tank Cave’s intricate system resembles a chaotic spider web, and to ensure safe exploration, cave divers are required to undergo a rigorous familiarization process.

Despite the numerous requirements to gain access to the site, this process ensures that every cave diver is thoroughly familiar with all the main passages of Tank Cave before venturing into its many side tunnels. Although some cave may worry the Tank Cave may not live up to the hype, even the gold line dives proved to be quite thrilling. Tank Cave is a unique and unparalleled diving spot in the Mount Gambier region, offering a delightful experience.

Lucas Major’s journey into cave diving started with a tragedy at the young age of 16. He lost his best friend in a cave diving accident, an incident that left him traumatized. Determined to never find himself in such a situation, Lucas registered for a cave diving course to learn the necessary skills to explore caves safely. During his time at college in the United States, Lucas became friends with Matt Parker, his roommate and a fellow cave diving enthusiast.

The two quickly bonded over their shared passion, and this marked the beginning of a friendship that would last for many years. While both were avid cave divers, Lucas was the more adventurous and daring of the two, always seeking out new and exciting challenges. Together, Lucas and Matt went on countless diving expeditions to explore the many cave systems of the United States. Their adventures took them to some of the most stunning and remote locations, where they uncovered the beauty of the underwater world in a thrilling adventure of a lifetime.

Lucas Major and Matt Parker embarked on a journey to the heart of Australia. Their mission: to attend a groundbreaking seminar near the famous Mount Gambier. But this was just the beginning of their epic adventure. After the seminar, Lucas proposed they take a detour and explore the legendary Tank Cave. Matt, always up for an adventure, eagerly agreed, and they drafted out a plan. Their dive was with a strict time limit, and they had planned not to go too deep because nitrogen narcosis becomes a hazard below a hundred feet.

“Nitrogen narcosis is a drowsy feeling experienced by divers caused by high-pressure air. It can make divers feel drunk and impair judgment, which is extremely dangerous when diving in deep water. When diving below 100 feet, divers should use trimix, which is a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium, to help in narcosis reduction. The tank contains a lower percentage of nitrogen. Since Lucas and Matt were not equipped with trimix, they planned not to dive below 100 feet.”

The Dive

At exactly 8 AM, they suited up and dove into the waters of Tank Cave. As they descended into the unknown, they marveled at the stunning beauty of the underwater scenery. But their excitement was short-lived as they stumbled upon a narrow tunnel. Lucas was initially unable to squeeze through the restriction, but he waited patiently as Matt struggled to pass through. With a deep breath and fierce determination, Lucas stretched his hands forward and managed to pass through the tight squeeze.

Their exploration continued as they followed the line for almost 25 feet, discovering some passages and territories along the way. The line continued ahead, beckoning them to explore further. Lucas and Matt dove further as they continued their journey. Lucas led the way, and they eventually stumbled upon a section that was a side-mount only passage. Depending on their size, they might have to remove one tank to pass through the initial restriction, making the dive much more challenging than they had anticipated.

The walls and roof of the passage were soft and squishy, causing large chunks to rain down on them as they exhaled, quickly reducing visibility to zero. Despite these difficulties, they persevered and explored further until they dived into the agreed 100-foot section. Lucas couldn’t believe his eyes as he gazed upon the breathtaking scenery surrounding him.

He had been gently exploring this section when Matt tapped him on the shoulder, signaling that it was time to exit. However, just as they were about to make their ascent, Lucas caught sight of another passageway and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to explore it. Matt, on the other hand, was not on board with Lucas’s sudden change of plans and reminded him of the importance of sticking to their initial plan. The two had a heated exchange, but despite Matt’s objections, Lucas remained resolute in his decision to explore the uncharted passageway.

Reluctantly, Matt made his way toward the only exit point, which was the passage that required side-mount diving. However, as he made his ascent and exited the water, he realized that Lucas was nowhere in sight. Panic set in as Matt realized that almost 40 minutes had passed, and Lucas had not yet ascended. Without hesitation, Matt alerted the authorities and told them what happened.

Rescue Operation

Rescue divers were quickly called in to search for Lucas. As the minutes passed, the situation grew tense. Matt couldn’t just keep waiting for the rescue divers to arrive. Lucky for him, they brought an extra gas tank, so he ran to their truck and suited up to go back into the cave, determined to find his friend. Matt plunged back into the waters. It was a risky move, but he knew that he had to do everything in his power to find Lucas and bring him back to safety.

Initially, he had optimistic thoughts that he would run into his friend while on his way, but to his dismay, he failed to come across him. Therefore, he proceeded to the spot where he had last seen Lucas. However, he was greeted with a distressing and sorrowful sight that broke his heart into pieces. His friend was trapped in the tight passageway they had encountered earlier, and his body was firmly wedged in place with half in front and half behind.

Apparently, Lucas had been stuck in the passageway while attempting to exit, and despite his attempts, he could not free himself. Due to the prolonged struggle and effort to break free, he had grown weak and depleted his air reserve, leaving him gasping for breath. Matt tried his best to keep Lucas conscious and awake, but Lucas was losing consciousness continually.

The state in which he found his friend filled Matt with guilt and remorse for leaving him behind. He attempted to remove him from the narrow passage, but he was unsuccessful with his efforts. In an attempt to comfort him, he whispered words of encouragement, telling him he needed to seek help. However, Lucas was barely responsive, making it difficult for Matt to understand his situation.

Eventually, after realizing he could do little to help his friend, Matt decided to return to the surface. As he left his friend behind, he felt guilty and unsure whether Lucas would survive the ordeal. The doubts and guilt that engulfed him were overwhelming, making him question his decision to leave his friend behind.

Upon his ascent to the surface, Matt saw that a rescue team consisting of three divers had assembled, but they were awaiting the arrival of the lead rescue diver, who was expected to be there in five minutes. Matt briefed the team on where he had last seen Lucas and his condition. While he was speaking, the team leader arrived and began to gear up.

Although Matt expressed a desire to accompany the team, they advised him to wait since he was distressed and panicked. As the divers entered the water, Matt took the initiative to contact Lucas’s parents and informed them about the situation, assuring them that a rescue team was on its way.

In the meantime, the rescue divers arrived at the location where Lucas was stuck and assessed the situation. They realized that they needed to work systematically to push him back into the section he was coming from to extract him from the tight space. One of the smaller divers on the team entered the tight space and removed Lucas’s side mount before passing it to the other divers who helped pull him out.

After 45 minutes of intense effort, the team finally emerged from the water with Lucas’s body. The cave was filled with sorrow as Matt wept inconsolably, regretting their decision to embark on the ill-fated adventure. A diver’s promising life had been lost due to a deviation from their dive plan.

This tragic incident serves as a reminder that our desires may not always align with what is reasonable. What may appear thrilling can easily turn into a catastrophe. As a result, it is crucial to prioritize following your dive plan and adhering to safety measures. Let this incident serve as a motivating factor to always prioritize safety and be vigilant in the face of potentially dangerous situations.

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What is Tank Cave?

Tank Cave is a famous cave located in Mount Gambier, South Australia. It is one of Australia’s longest caves and is known for its extensive and complex system of passages.

What is nitrogen narcosis?

Nitrogen narcosis is a drowsy feeling experienced by divers caused by high-pressure air. It can make divers feel drunk and impair judgment, which is extremely dangerous when diving in deep water.

Why did Lucas and Matt plan not to dive below 100 feet?

Diving below 100 feet can increase the risk of nitrogen narcosis. Since Lucas and Matt were not equipped with trimix, a mixture that helps reduce narcosis, they decided not to dive below 100 feet.

What happened to Lucas in Tank Cave?

Lucas decided to explore an uncharted passageway instead of sticking to the dive plan. He became stuck in a tight passageway and eventually ran out of air, resulting in his death.

How was Lucas recovered?

A rescue team was called in, and they worked systematically to push Lucas back into the section he came from and extract him from the tight space. After intense effort, they successfully rescued his body from the cave

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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