Little Girl Killed After Florida Sand Hole Buries Her And Injures Her Brother on Beach With No Lifeguards

A family vacation in Florida ended in nightmare after sand hole collapsed and killed 7-year-old girl and injured her 9-year-old brother. There are no lifeguards on the beach where the family was playing.

A 7-year-old girl died and her 9-year-old brother remains hospitalized after a giant sand hole they were digging collapsed, trapping them as their parents and bystanders frantically tried to dig them out, authorities said.

Tuesday's tragedy occured on the 2.5-mile beach of Florida's Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, which has no lifeguards. Had a trained beach rescuer been on site, the tragedy could have been averted, an expert told Inside Edition Digital.

"You can't dig deeper than knee length. More people die from sand collapses than shark attacks," says Jim McCrady, Vice President and Lifesaving Academies director of the U.S. Lifesaving Association Southeast Region.

McCrady is also a surf rescue chief in Hallandale Beach and a former lifeguard in Fort Lauderdale, which is adjacent to the town of  Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

The latter's coastline is open to the public, but has no lifeguards. "That is surprising to all of us" in the beach rescue community, McCrady says. 

The area is popular for diving and its turquoise waters, but also has strong rip currents, according to travel agency sites. 

Fire and ocean rescue services are provided to the town by the nearby city of Pompano Beach. 

Inside Edition Digital reached out the mayor of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea on Wednesday, but has not heard back.

"Our hearts are heavy in LBTS today after learning two children were trapped in the sand," the town said in a statement.

"The preliminary investigation revealed the children, and their parents were on vacation from Indiana. Investigators say the children were digging a hole in the sand when they were trapped. The circumstances into this incident remain under investigation," said Broward County Sheriff's Office in a statement.

First responders arrived at about 3 p.m. Tuesday following the sand hole collapse, police said. The victims were identified Wednesday as 7-year-old Sloan Mattingly and her 9-year-old brother, Maddox. Their family had been visiting from Indiana.

Maddox was buried up to his chest in the sand. Sloan was trapped below him, authorities said. Cellphone video taken by bystanders showed people on the beach frantically trying to pull sand from the hole.

Sloan had no pulse at the scene and was pronounced dead at a nearby medical center, authorities said. Maddox remains hospitalized and his vital signs are stable, but his injuries have not been publicly released.

If lifeguards had been present, McCrady says, they could have stopped well-meaning people crowding the site, trying to dig the children out, which is one of the worst things to do when victims are trapped in sand holes.

"The weight of the sand, and all the people standing on it trying to dig them out, makes it harder for them to breathe," McCrady says. "Your head could be completely out of the sand, but your lungs could be so compressed that you can't take a breath," he says.

Trained rescuers form a circle around the collapse, standing away from the victim to avoid adding extra weight to the sand bearing down on him or her. They then dig with shovels or their hands, depending on the crater's depth. A parallel hole is also sometimes dug, to keep more sand from pouring into the collapsed dig.

"That's why we have lifeguards on most public beaches in the country. People can't be expected to know about all the hazards of being on the beach." Having lifeguards "affords them the opportunity to go home safe at the end of the day."

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