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Virginia diver who died at Roaring River Cave in Cassville remembered as 'incredibly genuine and caring'

Eric Hahn, a diver who died at Roaring River Cave in Cassville, before a dive at the site in late August.
Michele Skalicky
Eric Hahn, a diver who died at Roaring River Cave in Cassville, before a dive at the site in late August.

Eric Hahn, from Blacksburg, Virginia, was a member of the KISS Rebreathers Team, which was exploring an underwater cave at Roaring River State Park.

A 27-year-old experienced diver who was a member of the KISS Rebreathers Team exploring Roaring River Cave in Cassville died as he was helping to place equipment well below the surface of the spring on Friday.

The body of Eric Hahn, of Blacksburg, Virginia was recovered by his team members late Friday afternoon.

Trooper Sam Carpenter with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Troop D, said the dive Friday began around 11:30 a.m. He said it’s not yet known what caused Hahn’s death 190 feet down, but the diver wasn’t able to surface.

Hahn loved exploring places where few people had been

KSMU interviewed Hahn in late August, just before he descended into the cave to survey invertebrates that live there, and he talked about why he loved to explore underwater caverns.

“For a long time I told myself, ‘oh, I’m never going to cave dive. That’s dangerous.’ The more and more I learned about it, the more and more I became interested in it just because you have redundant gear, lots of technical planning…it’s very interesting and enjoyable,” said Hahn.

And he said it was rewarding to be able to go where few people have been before.

“You know, fewer people have been through this one location than have even been on the moon,” said Hahn. “Now, the equipment considerations and the environments are very different, but at the same time, we each have entire life support systems that keep us breathing, keep us warm, keep us alive.

Deepest dive in a cave

The KISS Rebreathers Team, consisting of members from across the United States, has been diving at Roaring River Cave since May of 2021.

Last November, team members Mike Young and Randall Purdy descended 472 feet from the surface, which experts say is the deepest explored cave destination in the U.S.

Curt Bowen, vice president of ADM Exploration Foundation, which monitors diving records, confirmed the record.

The team was preparing to attempt to go deeper on Saturday, but the dive was canceled.

KISS Rebreathers declined to comment at this time, and said it's a devastating time for the company, based in Barling, Arkansas.

Remembering a "genuine" person

Hahn’s sister, Heidi Hahn, said on Facebook, her brother had “an exceptional intellectual ability.” But she said “he also had an incredibly genuine and caring nature.”

He was eager to have the opportunity to pet a KSMU reporter’s dog when he first emerged from the water for an interview, and Jojo, who’s timid by nature, gladly accepted the affection.

Heidi Hahn said her brother “dedicated his life to saving others and improving our world.”

He volunteered for the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad as a technical rescue member and an advanced EMT, according to Heidi Hahn.

An investigation into Hahn’s death is ongoing. Carpenter said they don’t know yet what happened. At this point, “everything would be speculative,” he said.

An autopsy is expected this week.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.