Extreme Diver Dave Shaw Died Recovering Deon Dreyer’s Remains From Bushman’s Hole

Deon Dreyer was a South African recreational scuba diver who died in Bushman’s Hole, or also known as Boesmansgat cave, in South Africa’s Northern Cape. Cave diver David John Shaw (Dave Shaw) died more than 10 years later whilst attempting to retrieve Dreyer’s cadaver.

Scuba Diver Deon Dreyer’s Early Life:

Deon Dreyer’s father, Theo and mother, Marie, raised him in the town of Vereeniging, about 35 miles south of Johannesburg. Dreyer designed “obscenely loud car stereos”, had a passion for diving, and loved adventure like hunting, racing a souped-up car, and motorcycling.

Death Of Deon Dreyer In Bushman’s Hole:

Deon Dreyer drowned on December 17th of 1994, at the age of 20, during a practice dive while helping a team, assembled by Nuno Gomes, set up conditions for a deep, technical dive scheduled to take place later that week.

The entrance to Bushman’s Hole doesn’t hint at the vastness beneath—it’s the third-deepest freshwater cave in the world. © Alex Tehrani

According to first-hand accounts from those diving with him, Dreyer was lost on ascent around 50 metres from the surface. They conjectured he had probably lost consciousness either because of oxygen toxicity or hypercapnia induced by the high work-rate of breathing at depth.

Dreyer was not the first victim of Bushman’s Hole. In 1993, Eben Leyden died after blacking out at 60 metres deep in the cave.

Efforts To Recover Dreyer’s Body:

Two weeks after Dreyer’s death, Theo hired a small, remotely operated sub used by the De Beers mining company. It found Dreyer’s dive helmet on the cenote floor, but there was no sign of his body. After that nobody was able to recover Dreyer’s body from the Bushman’s hole.

Dreyer’s Body Was Discovered By An Extreme Diver Dave Shaw:

Dave Shaw, one of the world’s most accomplished rebreather divers. © Dave Shaws deepcave website.

Almost 10 years had past after Dreyer’s tragic death when extreme diver Dave Shaw set a world depth record in the blackness of the Bushman’s Hole in October 2004, his elation was marred by a grim discovery.

Lying in the silt 270 metres down at the bottom of South Africa’s deepest freshwater cave, he saw the remains of Deon Dreyer, the only man to have previously attempted to conquer the Bushman’s depths.

Dave Shaw diving in Bushman’s Hole. © Dave Shaw’s deepcave website.

Dave Shaw was an Australian scuba diver, technical diver, and a commercial airline pilot, who had already made a number of records in diving and did many impossible things in his life.

Unable to recover the body on that attempt, he promised Dreyer’s parents he would go back for their son’s remains, and he was as good as his words. But, the promise was to cost Shaw his own life too!

Dave Shaw’s Final Dive – A Tragedy After Tragedy!

On January 8th of 2005, Shaw dove into the deep water of Bushman’s Hole. It was his 333rd dive of his career. All his team and Dreyer’s parents were waiting for him with a clock in their hands. Unfortunately, Shaw never came back alive! He also died while endeavouring to recover the body of Deon Dreyer.

How Had Dave Shaw Died?

Shaw recorded his dive with an underwater camera on his head, which allowed researchers to determine that he suffered from respiratory issues due to the high pressure. Shaw ran into difficulties when the body unexpectedly began to float.

Shaw had been advised by various experts that the body would remain negatively buoyant because the visible parts were reduced to the skeleton. However, within his wetsuit, Dreyer’s corpse had turned into a soap-like substance called adipocere, which floats.

Dave Shaw diving in Bushman’s Hole.

Shaw had been working with both hands, and so had been resting his can light on the cave floor. The powerful underwater lights that cave divers use are connected by wires to heavy battery canisters, normally worn on the cave diver’s waist, or sometimes attached to their tanks.

Normally, Shaw would have wrapped the wire behind his neck, but he was unable to do so. The lines from the body bag appear to have become entangled with the light head, and the physical effort of trying to free himself led to his death.

Footage taken from his camera showed breathless Shaw repeatedly struggling to cut himself free, a straightforward manoeuvre for an experienced diver at normal depths. The rigours of operating at such massive depths were too much however, and he passed out and died.

He Kept His Promise:

Three days later, both of the bodies floated up to near the surface as the dive team was retrieving their equipment. In the last, Shaw kept his promise!

After reading about the tragic story of Deon Dreyer and Dave Shaw, read about John Edward Jones who never came back from Utah’s Nutty Putyy Cave!

Dave Shaw’s Final Dive:

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