7-year-old girl dies after getting trapped in sand at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach

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A young girl has died and a boy was hospitalized in critical condition after they fell into a sand hole and got trapped at a beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Broward Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics responded after 3:16 p.m. to the 4400 block of El Mar Drive, where footage from Chopper 6 showed crowds of people standing around a massive sand hole that was roped off.

Two children — a 9-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl — were taken to the hospital in critical condition. BSO later confirmed that the girl died.

Sloan Mattingly was identified as a young girl who died, and Maddox Mattingly is her older brother who was critically injured.

An initial report from BSO stated Sloan was five years old, but investigators have since confirmed she was seven.

Witnesses said the children were digging the hole and playing around before the ground gave way. The sand hole was about 5- to 6-feet deep, according to Sandra King, a spokesperson for Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.

Cellphone video from a witness showed desperate beachgoers using their hands to dig sand out of the hole as they tried to rescue the kids trapped underneath.

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

Rescuers used support boards to keep sand from collapsing further in as they used shovels with the help of good Samaritans to dig the children out, King said. She said it wasn’t clear how long they were buried.

According to a 2007 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, between 1997 and 2007, there were 52 documented instances of people who became buried in holes due to sand that collapsed, 31 of those cases resulting in death. The victims ranged in age between 3 and 21 years old.

Last week, a 2-year-old boy was playing on a New Jersey beach when the sand collapsed and buried him alive. The boy’s father was able to quickly save him from the sand pit.

In 2022, a 35-year-old man was found with his feet sticking out of the sand along the Treasure Coast. The victim had his legs up and was leaning back on some sand when it collapsed. Somebody noticed his body three hours later.

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