Horrifying final moments of girl, 7, buried alive in sand when hole she was digging on family beach trip collapsed

25 February 2024, 14:37 | Updated: 25 February 2024, 14:42

Sloan Mattingly died in a 'freak accident' on the beach
Sloan Mattingly died in a 'freak accident' on the beach. Picture: GoFundMe/Getty

By Kit Heren

A devastated relative of a seven-year-old girl who died after a hole she was digging on the beach collapsed has explained how the tragedy took place,

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Sloan Mattingly was digging with her brother Maddox on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-sea in the US state of Florida when the tragedy took place on Tuesday.

She was buried for 20 minutes before rescuers could haul her out from the 1.8 metre-deep hole. She died in hospital.

Her brother was also rushed to hospital, but is in a stable condition.

Sloan's family have paid tribute to her, with her mother saying on a fundraising page that she died in a "freak accident".

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The Mattingly family
The Mattingly family. Picture: Facebook

Therese said: "It took away our greatest 7.5 years. Don't tell us you're sorry for our loss… don't do that to us. We experienced the purest human being and we are forever changed by her.

"We love you beyond any stretch of the imagination. Our sweet Sloan. What we would give."

Sloan's father Jason said: "Our baby is in heaven, love you too much Sloan."

The family were on holiday when the tragedy took place.

Investigators on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea take photos of the scene of the sand collapse
Investigators on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea take photos of the scene of the sand collapse. Picture: Getty

Her uncle told a local news outlet that they "were having a good time" before the accident, as he explained how it took place.

Chris Sloan told KFOR-TV: "Later we found out that after the sand had caved, [Sloan] kept trying to grab up Maddox's leg to get up out of the sand, and eventually he couldn't feel her moving anymore.

"The sand had been up to [Maddox's] chest, and he was screaming for help, and a lot of people did come and help."

Mr Sloan said that his niece was "always happy". He added: "She was really fun to be around. She had a lot of energy and just totally innocent, and that's what hurts the most in all this."

A witness said that he believed the children's father was also helping to dig the hole.

Sloan
Sloan. Picture: Facebook

Harry Delfina told NBC: "I could see the boy a little bit, but all I can see… was the top of the girl's head.

"I saw the father was just beside himself."It's still such an upsetting episode to have been there."

The family have raised over £108,000 ($130,000) in donations.

The tragedy prompted the American Lifeguard Association to issue a warning about the danger of digging holes on beaches.

Director of health and safety Bernard J Fisher II said: "The recent incident in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a heart-wrenching reminder of why we must work together to keep our beaches safe."

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