A sand hole collapse in Florida killed a child. Such deaths occur several times a year in the US

Feb 21, 2024, 1:08 PM

Investigators on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., take photos of the scene of a sand colla...

Investigators on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., take photos of the scene of a sand collapse on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. A young girl was buried in sand and died Tuesday when a deep hole she was digging with a little boy collapsed on them both at a south Florida beach, authorities said. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

(Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A family trip to a Florida beach turned tragic when a 5-year-old Indiana girl digging a deep hole with her brother died after the sand collapsed on them, an underrecognized danger that kills and injures several children a year around the country.

Sloan Mattingly died Tuesday afternoon at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s beach when a 4-to-5-foot-deep (1-to-1.5-meter) hole collapsed on her and her 7-year-old brother, Maddox. The boy was buried up to his chest, but the girl was fully covered. Video taken by a bystander shows about 20 adults trying to dig her out using their hands and plastic pails, but the hole kept collapsing on itself.

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a small enclave north of Fort Lauderdale, does not have lifeguards at its beach, so there were no professionals immediately available to help.

Sandra King, spokesperson for the Pompano Beach Fire-Rescue Department, said rescue crews arrived quickly and used shovels to dig out the sand and boards to stabilize the hole, but the girl had no pulse. King said paramedics immediately began resuscitation efforts, but Sloan was pronounced dead at the hospital. The boy’s condition has not been released.

King said the children’s parents were extremely distraught and the paramedics who treated the children had to be relieved from their shift.

“It was a horrible, horrible scene. Just imagine one minute your children are playing in the sand and then in seconds you have a life-threatening situation with your little girl buried,” said King, whose department services Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

News reports and a 2007 medical study show that about three to five children die in the United States each year when a sand hole they are digging at the beach, a park or at home collapses on top of them. Others are seriously injured and require CPR to survive.

Those who died include a 17-year-old boy who was buried at a North Carolina beach last year, a 13-year-old who was digging into a sand dune at a state park in Utah and an 18-year-old who was digging with his sister at a New Jersey beach. Those two accidents happened in 2022.

“The risk of this event is enormously deceptive because of its association with relaxed recreational settings not generally regarded as hazardous,” the New England Journal of Medicine study concluded.

Lifeguards say parents need to be careful about letting their children dig at the beach and not let them get too deep.

Patrick Bafford, the lifeguard manager for Clearwater, Florida, said his staff will warn families if a hole gets too big but sometimes they aren’t noticed in time.

“We have had events where people have had close calls or died because of a collapse,” he said. “You want them to have fun, (but) there’s a difference between fun and a hazard they might face. It’s hard really for people to understand that the beach can be a hazard. Bad things can still happen no matter what. Use good judgment.”

Shawn DeRosa, who runs a firm that trains lifeguards, said “many people don’t think through the risks in allowing children to dig deep or wide holes.”

“They know that the sand might slide down or that a wall could collapse, but they don’t seem to envision their child being buried in the sand so quickly,” he said. “Nor do they appreciate the real challenge in getting the child out of the sand once the collapse has occurred.”

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-LA) attends a news conference at Colum...

Haley Talbot, Lauren Fox and Clare Foran, CNN

Johnson calls on Columbia University president to resign during tense news conference

House Speaker Mike Johnson called on Columbia University’s president to resign Wednesday during a tense news conference.

4 hours ago

A Ford sign is shown at a dealership in Springfield, Pa., Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Ford is recallin...

Chris Isidore, CNN

Ford just reported a massive loss on every electric vehicle it sold

Ford’s electric vehicle unit reported that losses soared in the first quarter to $1.3 billion, or $132,000 for each of the 10,000 vehicles it sold in the first three months of the year, helping to drag down earnings for the company overall.

6 hours ago

Mandatory Credit:	Mario Anzuoni/Reuters via CNN Newsource
Dateline:	LOS ANGELES, February 04, 2024...

Lisa Respers France, CNN

Taylor Swift’s elementary school teachers remember her as a young star

Turns out Taylor Swift doesn’t just speak now when it comes to writing, but has long had a reputation for being fearless.

8 hours ago

A Planned Parenthood sign is seen at a facility in Austin, Texas, Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. A federal ...

Jacques Billeaud and Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press

Arizona House advances a repeal of the state’s near-total abortion ban to the Senate

A proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total ban on abortions has won approval from the state House.

8 hours ago

The Biden administration issued final rules Wednesday to require airlines to automatically issue ca...

David Koenig, AP Airlines Writer

Airlines will now be required to give automatic cash refunds for canceled and delayed flights

The Biden administration is setting new rules on airline fees and refunds. The Transportation Department said Wednesday that the final rules will spell out exactly when consumers are owed a refund for a delayed flight.

10 hours ago

Congress finalized legislation on April 23 that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban, escalating a...

Brian Fung, CNN

Biden just signed a potential TikTok ban into law. Here’s what happens next

President Joe Biden signed a bill Wednesday that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban, escalating a massive threat to the company’s US operations.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

A sand hole collapse in Florida killed a child. Such deaths occur several times a year in the US