From today’s Austin American Statesman, a tragic, and seemingly avoidable, accident:
BOERNE, Texas — The manager of a commercial tourist cavern in the Texas Hill Country drowned when he swam into a nearby cave to try to improve its drainage, friends and co-workers said.
Thomas Summers III, 44, died Monday during an attempt to improve the water outflow of Deadman’s Cave, which is connected via tunnels to Cave Without a Name, located about 30 miles north of San Antonio.
Summers, a father of four, had moved to Kendall County in 2004 from the Longview area to partner with his father and manage Cave Without a Name, an attraction that draws about 15,000 visitors annually
“Obviously, it’s a tragic accident,” said Dayna Cartwright, a friend of Summers’ family. “You have to be extremely careful in dealing with Mother Nature.”
Mike Burrell, a co-worker of Summers, said recent rains raised the water table and submerged the outer reaches of Cave Without a Name. But the water didn’t affect regular tours.
Burrell said Summers and a tour guide went into Deadman’s Cave Monday afternoon to look for anything that might be impeding water outflow. Summers swam into a section where the cave ceiling was just inches above the water. After hearing a sputtering sound from Summers, the tour guide got no response to his shouts and went for help, Burrell said.
Rescue crews used pumps to lower the water level so a cave diver could retrieve Summers’ body without the need for a breathing apparatus.
Deadman’s Cave got its name in the mid-1980s when someone found skeletal remains there, Burrell said.
He said Cave With a Name is closed indefinitely.