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Beach sand hole collapse: Oregon girl digs, suffocates in large sand hole

Digging a hole in the sand.
Digging a hole in the sand.
Flickr by user Michael Bentley

A young Oregon girl died over the weekend after suffocating in a large sand hole. According to CNN on Sunday, the 9-year-old Sandy, Oregon girl was visiting a nearby Oregon beach with her family on Friday afternoon. Reportedly, she dug a deep hole in the sand with friends and siblings, and after sitting in it, the walls collapsed, suffocating her.

It's not unusual for children to dig holes in the sand, but sand has killed three people so far this summer, including 9-year-old Isabel Grace Franks. Yahoo! News reports that firefighters and law enforcement responded to a beach in the Oregon town of Lincoln City on Friday just after 5 p.m. They arrived to find a group of people desperately trying to dig the young girl out of a three to five-foot hole in the sand.

According to Lincoln City police Sgt. Brian Eskridge, after the girl and her siblings dug the large hole, she sat inside to find out how deep it was. "She was sitting inside, and the hole collapsed. We believe she was under the sand around five minutes," said Sgt. Eskridge. Tracey Dudley, a witness who was staying in the nearby Seagull Beach Front Motel, said that she heard screaming, but thought it was just kids playing.

Said Dudley, "But it was like screaming and screaming and screaming." Dudley called 911 as she watched people frantically trying to dig the girl out. Dudley went on to say that people were digging and digging and digging, but it looked like the sand kept collapsing.

Franks was not conscious or breathing when emergency crews dug her out of the hole. Paramedics from the North Lincoln Fire and Rescue performed CPR, but the young girl was later declared dead at a nearby hospital. Apparently, this incident has happened before, but it's rare. A 2004 Mayo Clinic study states that dry sand burial can totally engulf and compress a person, with no air pocket for breathing.

The hole that buried Franks was reportedly big enough for a large crouching adult. Tom Gill from the United States Lifesaving Association said that local jurisdictions sometimes set standards to restrict the depth of sand holes, but there are no national standards. The hole that buried Franks has now been filled in and memorialized with candles, flowers and notes from mourners.