When most people think dangers on the beach, they think undertows or sharks or stingrays. Most people don’t realize that sand can be a killer, too. Over two dozen people have been killed over the past 10 years when sand holes collapsed in on them, according to father-and-son doctors who have begun a personal campaign to warn people of the risk of sand holes, according to the Associated Press.
It doesn’t always happen at the beach, either. Since 1985, around 20 kids and teenagers in the United states have died in both beach and backyard sand submersion’s. Also recorded in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom were eight other deaths due to sand. The New England Journal of Medicine published a letter from the doctors concerning this issue this week.
Matthew Gauruder was a 17-year-old celebrating at an after-prom beach party in May of 2001. While playing football with some friends, he jumped for a pass and fell backward into an eight-foot hole, dug earlier in the day. As his friends tried to rescue him, they only made it worse by making more sand cave in, and people there said he may have been buried for more than 15 minutes.
His mother, in an interview this week, said, “People have no conception of how dangerous this is.”
Dr. Bradley Maron of Harvard Medical School is an internal medicine resident. He wrote that sand holes can collapse at quite an alarming rate of speed.”Typically, victims became completely submerged in the sand when the walls of the hole unexpectedly collapsed, leaving virtually no evidence of the hole or location of the victim,” he writes, according to the Associated Press.
Back in 1998 Maron, who is also a former lifeguard, witnessed a sand collapse that buried an 8-year-old girl. As he was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard he and his father, a Minnesota cardiologist, Dr. Barry Maron, watched the dramatic rescue of the little girl by lifeguards. That little girl was lucky to survive. He has since spent years researching and writing about similar incidents.
“It’s been almost like a vendetta for him,” said Dennis Arnold. Arnold was Maron’s boss that summer, and ran the beach patrol in Martha’s vineyard the summer of the witnessed sand collapse.
The natural worry for most people at the beach or ocean is shark attacks, yet Marons’ research recorded a startling statistic. There have been 16 sand hole or tunnel deaths in the United States, and 12 shark deaths for the same time period. The study ran from the years 1990-2006 and is according to the University of Florida statistics.
Victims are mostly boys, and range from the ages of 3 to 21 years. The average age for death was 12, according to the Associated Press.
Maron and others instruct everyone not to let young children play unattended in sand, and to never get in a hole that is deeper than your knees.
originally reported By MIKE STOBBE, “Sand more deadly than sharks at beach”