A Virginia man who built a sand tunnel died when his beach burrow collapsed on top of him, pinning the beachgoer under six feet of sand. Rescuers were unable to excavate 49-year-old David Frasier from his sand tunnel in time, and he was pronounced dead after the passageway crumpled on top of him.
NBC Washington reported that Frasier, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, was visiting the Cape Hatteras National Seashore at North Carolina's Outer Banks Tuesday afternoon with his family. Frasier was “digging a tunnel between a pair of six-foot-deep holes at when the sand above him collapsed.”
The tunnel initially held up, but after the wet sand started to dry, it fell in on top of the family man, pinning him underneath. Dry sand weighs about 100 lbs. per cubic foot, and a cubic yard contains 27 cubic feet. The tunnel was likely longer and deeper than this, but minimally, Frasier trapped himself under 2,700 pounds of sand.
Witnesses and friends of Frasier said they desperately tried to free him, but that he had been under the sand for 10 to 15 minutes. When he was finally exhumed, he was already dead.
A National Park spokesperson said it’s been at least a decade since they last had a death from someone intentionally digging a hole large enough that could kill them.
“It is rare,” said park employee Cyndy Holda. “It's probably too deep to be safe if you are using a shovel.” General beach safety says not to dig a hole that is deeper than your knees. Many parks and public beaches do not even allow for large holes to be dug, for safety concerns not only for the digger but passersby as well.
In the event of a sand collapse, emergency officials are hesitant to use large shovels, for fear of injuring the victim.
“We’re going to use plastic toys, plastic buckets, hands, anything soft to dig with,” said Jon Rigolo, Captain with the Virginia Beach Fire Department.