NORFOLK, VA– Coastal North Carolina authorities are investigating the death of a teenager trapped in a hole dug in the sand, the latest casualty of the scourge of sand holes that continues to claim the lives of young people.
The 17-year-old man died Saturday afternoon in the small resort town of Frisco, which is on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks, the National Park Service said in a statement.
Park rangers were responding to an emergency call about a teenager trapped in a hole dug in a back dune area behind the beach’s main dune along the Atlantic Ocean, the park service said. The teenager was buried under several feet of sand after an adjacent dune appeared to collapse into the hole.
Rangers and other emergency responders worked with family members to rescue the teenager while also performing CPR, the park service said. Attempts to revive the teenager, who lived in Chesapeake, Virginia, failed.
“We urge visitors not to dig deep holes on the beach as it puts beachgoers and rescue workers at risk,” the valet said in a statement Saturday.
Mike Barber, a Parks Service spokesman, told The Associated Press on Monday that the incident was being investigated further and that no new information was available.
Collapsing sand holes have claimed dozens of lives over the decades. The weight of the sand makes it difficult for people to breathe, while the sand can get into people’s lungs. The brain and other organs are often deprived of oxygen.
In late March, a 14-year-old boy died after being buried in a sand hole in rural Minnesota. Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsh said Hunter Flaxbeard’s death was ruled an accidental asphyxiation.
In May 2022, a 13-year-old Utah boy died after a sand dune he was tunneling into collapsed, burying him in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southern Utah.
That same month, an 18-year-old man died while playing with his sister on a beach in Toms River, New Jersey, when a large hole they dug in the sand collapsed. His sister was also trapped but was rescued. The family was visiting from Maine.
In 2014, a Fredericksburg, Virginia man died in Salvo on North Carolina’s Outer Banks when sand collapsed on him after authorities said he was tunneling between two holes.
These are just some of the examples. In 2007, Dr. Bradley Maron and his father, Dr. Barry Maron, co-authored a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine citing 31 recreational sand hole deaths in the United States since 1985. Great BritainAustralia and New Zealand.
They counted another 21 incidents in which a person was saved from collapsing, in several cases by bystanders performing CPR.
Bradley Maron told The Associated Press in 2007 that he thought the sand-related deaths were less well-documented than shark attackS
The Marons’ research found that, according to University of Florida statistics, there were 16 deaths from sand holes or tunnels in the United States between 1990 and 2006, compared to 12 fatal shark attacks during the same period.
The father and son based their account largely on news media reports and internet research. Most incidents were within the last 10 years when internet reports were available.
The victims, mostly boys, ranged in age from 3 to 21, with the average age being around 12.
Maron and others advise the public not to let small children play in the sand unsupervised or to go into a hole deeper than your knees.