RIDGE MANOR —
In September, David Voiles saved someone from a drowning accident.
He jumped into a reptile-infested canal and rescued a middle-aged woman, who was trapped inside her sinking car, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Voiles was presented with an award for his heroism.
Fourteen weeks after saving a life, Voiles couldn’t survive his own underwater scare at Sherman Hills Golf Course.
The 43-year-old scuba diver was dragging a heavy load of golf balls along one of the deepest areas of the pond when either his equipment failed or he suffered a medical condition, according to the sheriff’s office.
An alligator attack has been ruled out as a cause of death, authorities said.
Voiles’ body was recovered shortly after 10:15 a.m. Tuesday by a rescue diver.
Cpl. Wendy McGinnis, a sheriff’s spokeswoman, said Voiles had been hired on various occasions during the past two years by the public golf course to collect balls from the bottom of the pond.
“We’re deeply saddened by this event,” said Mike Lyons, a spokesman for Sherman Hills. “David’s friends and family are in our prayers.”
Voiles, who lived near the course at 6113 LaPine Road, was last heard from around 1 p.m. Monday when he called his mother and was last seen around 3 p.m. that day, McGinnis said.
Members of his family were with the sheriff’s office Tuesday and were watching from the road as the dive team from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office combed the bottom of the pond, which in some areas is deeper than 20 feet.
They declined to speak to the media.
Bill Provencal, who lives nearby, heard a helicopter Tuesday morning. He said he headed toward the the commotion, at which time a friend told him the sheriff’s office was looking for a body in the water.
“I just feel bad for his family,” said Provencal. “To sit here and watch all of this happen before their eyes , It’s crazy.”
Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke briefly to the media soon after the body was recovered. He said Voiles recently had been awarded the Citizen Service Award for his life-saving response following the Sept. 21 accident in Hernando Beach.
Voiles was a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard and held the rank of staff sergeant.
“This was a loss to the community that’s for sure,” Nienhuis said.
In a media release, Nienhuis called the accident “tragically ironic” and said Voiles was someone who “contributed to his country through his (military) service” and “to his community through his willingness to risk his life for a stranger.”
In a memo submitted to the sheriff’s office, Deputy Gisele Mulverhill, who worked the crash site in Hernando Beach, stated Voiles had seen the vehicle in the water, entered the canal and pulled the driver to safety … all while deputies and paramedics were still responding.
By the time authorities arrived, the water was almost to the top of the steering wheel, Mulverhill wrote.
The driver suffered from chronic back problems and might have been disabled, according to the sheriff’s office.
“The canal he jumped into was probably teeming with various species of dangerous reptiles, yet he willingly risked his safety in order to help this woman,” Mulverhill wrote.
Voiles was owner and president of Krush Sports and Entertainment, which according to its website, is a sports-themed mentorship program for youths across West Central Florida.
Charlie Combs, an employee at Gold’s Gym in Brooksville, said he will miss Voiles’ warm personality.
“Just like restaurants and bars have their regulars, he was one of our regulars,” said Combs. “He was a great guy. I never heard a bad thing said about him in the four years I knew him. , He wasn’t a closed book. He was very open with people and very friendly.”
The golf cart Voiles used to travel across the course was located next to the pond when he was pronounced missing. His backpack also was lying next to the cart. His vehicle was found in a nearby parking lot.
The Pasco sheriff’s office dive team was called Monday night, at which time the search began, McGinnis said. It was halted for several hours and resumed around 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Neighbors in the area said they had seen alligators in the pond recently and wondered whether one had killed Voiles.
McGinnis said more details will be released following the autopsy, but based on preliminary information, detectives have ruled out the possibility of an animal attack.
Voiles had been a certified diver for about 24 years, according to the sheriff’s office.
Brett Hemphill, a local recovery diver specialist, said there are several dangers when diving in ponds with low or zero visibility.
Divers can become entangled, have an equipment failure or suffer an embolism or other medical issue.
Additionally, a lot of golf ball scavengers don’t use a back-up breathing device because they are diving in relatively shallow depths and don’t like to be weighed down, Hemphill said. That adds to the risk.
“When there is zero visibility and you are separated from your respirator, it just takes seconds,” he said.