The fun beach practice of digging in the sand has occupied children and adults for probably as long as people have gone to the beach for recreation. This seemingly harmless activity typically results in nothing but sand in bathing suits and under fingernails but sometimes, when the holes get too deep or begin to take on cave or tunnel-like appearance tragedy can strike — as it did recently in Long Branch, NJ.

A 12-year old boy lost his life while digging a sand tunnel with his brother when the tunnel collapsed around him and buried him under the sand. Despite others around immediately realizing what had happened they simply could not get him out of the sand before he suffocated.

If you believe this an isolated, almost too weird to believe incident then the following information may shock you:

  • CBS New reported that at least 16 deaths related to beach holes have happened between 1990 and 2010. ( source )
  • An article that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 entitled “Sudden Death from Collapsing Sand Holes” stated that evidence of 31 deaths occurred as a result of collapsing sand holes. ( source )

Moral of the story?

Other perils exist at the beach besides drowning, getting stung by jellyfish, etc. and we must keep an active eye on children near the water as well as away from the water as they play in the sand. Advise them to keep the hole sizes ‘reasonable’ and of the dangers associated with placing themselves in sand holes that ‘go underground’.

In closing we would like to say that our hearts go out to the friends and family of the boy who died and we hope this unfortunate tragedy will serve as a reminder to all other beach-goers that under the right conditions, sand, though seemingly harmless, can take a life quickly and without mercy — just like the ocean.

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