LINCOLN CITY, OR. (CNN)- When you think of potentially fatal threats at the beach, you probably think of sharks or riptides. You probably don’t worry about the sand. But that unexpected killer has now claimed at least three lives in the United States this summer.
Nine-year-old Isabel Grace Franks died at a Lincoln City, Oregon, beach on Friday, when a hole she was digging in the sand caved in and buried her, authorities said.
“We heard screaming,” Tracey Dudley, who was staying at a nearby hotel, told CNN affiliate KATU. “At first we thought, you know, it was just kids. But it was like screaming and screaming and screaming.”
“Her and her siblings were digging a big hole in the sand,” Lincoln City police Sgt. Brian Eskridge said. “She was sitting inside, and the hole collapsed. We believe she was under the sand around five minutes.”
Franks, her family and friends were visiting the beach from Sandy, Oregon.
Police and firefighters dug her out, but she was unconscious and not breathing. Emergency crews performed CPR on her and transported her to a hospital, where she was declared dead.
Mourners left flowers, candles and notes near where she died.
Before the emergency workers arrived, beachgoers had frantically tried to dig her out, but the sand kept collapsing back into the hole, Eskridge said.
That’s a common problem when someone gets buried at the beach, Tom Gill of the United States Lifesaving Association said Sunday.
“Once the sand starts collapsing, digging out becomes a technical rescue,” Gill said. “It’s difficult because the sand keeps collapsing back into the hole, and the more people gathering around, the more difficult it is.”
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