The idea for this book came about after Ben McDaniel’s disappearance in August 2010. McDaniel was last seen on August 18, 2010 about to do a dive in Vortex Spring. He was a certified scuba diver but did not have any formal training as a cave diver. Two days later, on August 20, his vehicle was still parked next to the spring basin but Ben was nowhere to be found. It is typically assumed that when a vehicle is found at a cave diving site that the owner never made it out from the cave dive. Because of this, McDaniel’s vehicle was reported abandoned to local authorities. It was assumed that Ben had perished in the Vortex Spring cave.
The afternoon after the vehicle was first noticed the first set of recovery divers entered the cave to look for his body. Their objective was to locate the body and make sure a continuous guideline was left in place so the second team of recovery divers could retrieve it. They were unsuccessful in locating the body. Another team went in to continue the search. This team, which included the author, searched the entire length of the cave. The author and one other team member even penetrated the fourth restriction at the end of the line. Ben’s body was nowhere to be found. Many rumors spread around the internet about what happened to Ben. No one knows, or at least is willing to tell, what really happened. To this day, Ben’s body has never been found.
Beyond the Grate is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. While the idea for the story did come from the disappearance referenced above, that is the only similarity. This story is simply one in which the author creates a story based on his imagination of what could have happened. There are some snippets of fact embedded in the story, such as some of the information about Ponce de Leon, Morrison Spring, and St. Andrews State Park. These things are included simply to give the story more depth and reality. They are by no means implicated in any wrong doing in the disappearance of McDaniel.
There is no Joey Simmons. There is no Earl Hewitt. There is no Lindsey Carter. There was no body found beyond the grate, even after multiple attempts searching for it over the months following Ben’s disappearance. These characters, as well as the other characters in the book, and the body, are all imaginative creations. This work of fiction simply takes one of the rumors that was going around and expands upon it.
No one knows what became of Ben McDaniel, or at least no one is willing to talk. All that is known is that his truck was left parked close to the spring basin and he hadn’t been seen in two days. No body was found. No one was implicated in any type of foul play. He was simply never heard from again. He could be anywhere…or nowhere. I hope you enjoy this one possible version of the course of events. I certainly enjoyed writing it.