Digging sand holes may sound like innocent fun at the
beach, but it can be risky and even deadly, according to a new report.
In the past decade, there have been reports of 31 fatalities and 21 nonfatal
cases of people submerged in sand when the sand holes they were digging for fun
collapsed in on them.
Those cases are noted in The New England Journal of Medicine by
Bradley Maron, MD, and colleagues. Maron works at Harvard Medical School in
Maron's team reports that the victims of collapsed sand holes were 3 to 21
years old (average age: 12). Most cases occurred at public beaches, near the
The holes were dug from dry sand by victims, friends, or relatives. The sand
holes were generally 2 feetB to 15 feet in diameter and 2 feetB to 12
feet deep, note Maron and colleagues.
"Typically, victims become completely submerged in the sand when the
walls of the hole unexpectedly collapsed, leaving virtually no evidence of the
hole or the location of the victim," write the researchers.
"Collapses were inadvertently triggered by a variety of circumstances,
including digging, tunneling, jumping, or falling into the hole," they
Many of the people who were rescued from sand holes required CPR from
bystanders, note Maron and colleagues.
They write that being trapped in a collapsed sand hole "is
uncommon," but such cases "probably are more common than this report
In a previous interview with WebMD, Maron said that in 1997, he saw rescuers
save the life of an 8-year-old girl who was trapped in a sand hole at Martha's
Maron's team has written about the sand hole hazard in the past and
continues to highlight the issue in the hopes of saving lives, especially as
people head to the beach on summer vacation.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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