Sloan Mattingly: Police name girl who died playing on Florida beach after sand hole collapse

Indiana family on vacation suffers devastating loss after girl dies and boy taken to hospital

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 22 February 2024 05:26 GMT
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Child dies after digging hole in sand at beach

Police on Wednesday identified the 7-year-old girl who died after she was buried inside a sand hole while playing during a vacation on a Florida beach as Sloan Mattingly.

Mattingly had come from Indiana with her family and was playing with her 9-year-old brother at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s beach when a 5-feet deep sand hole collapsed on them.

The boy, Maddox, was submerged up to his chest in the sand and the girl was fully buried, Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Around 20 people worked at the scene to dig out the children using their hands and plastic pails but the sand kept collapsing.

The first deputies arrived almost four minutes after the collapse and paramedics followed moments later, according to 911 calls released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

Rescue crews took over for the bystanders, using shovels to dig out the sand and boards to stabilise the hole, but when they got to the girl she had no pulse, said Sandra King, spokesperson for the Pompano Beach Fire-Rescue Department.

The siblings were rushed to the hospital but Sloan was pronounced dead at the hospital while the boy’s condition has not been released.

Videos from the scenes showed bystanders working to rescue Sloan as wails of anguish could be heard in the background.

"There is a little girl buried under the sand and they have not got to her yet," one nurse told an operator.

The children and their parents were on a vacation from Indiana, the sheriff’s office said.

Ms King, whose department services Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, 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 Ms King.

The American Lifeguard Association advises beachgoers to not dig holes in the sand deeper than knee-level.

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, according to news reports and a 2007 medical study. Others are seriously injured and require CPR to survive.

Last year, a boy, 17, died after he was buried at a North Carolina beach last year. Similar deaths were reported in 2022 of a 13-year-old at a state park in Utah and an 18-year-old at a New Jersey beach.

"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.

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."

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