Watch CBS News

Man says he saw man digging "massive sand hole" that trapped children in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

Remembering Sloan: Plans to honor 7-year-old Indiana girl who died in tragic South Florida sandhole
Remembering Sloan: Plans to honor 7-year-old Indiana girl who died in tragic South Florida sandhole 03:24

LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA -- Harry Defina was walking on the beach Tuesday afternoon when he saw an odd site.

There was a man digging a large hole. He was alone. 

Half an hour later, there was a commotion at the place where he saw the man digging.

When he got closer he saw a horrifying scene. Scores of people were trying to dig out two children who were trapped in the sand.

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea mayor addresses recent tragedy 00:35

"I'm upset -  no way did they dig that hole," he said. 

The Broward Sheriff's Office has said that the children were digging a hole and sand collapsed on them.  Seven-year-old Sloan Mattingly died. Her 9-year-old brother survived. The children were visiting with their parents from Indiana. 

"I'm upset. No way did they dig that hole. It was massive," said Defina. 

Defina believes the children found the hole and began digging some more until the sides collapsed. 

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea has no lifeguards. Although most coastal communities in Broward have them. 

Hollywood has dozens of lifeguards and the marine safety director says they keep their eyes on the water and sand. 

"If we see a hole, we talk to the parents and tell them to fill the hole," says Marine Safety Chief Joyce Fuhrman. 

The Pompano Beach Fire rescue team, which assisted Tuesday, trying to free the children had just gone through training for sand extraction. 

"It happens more than you think," says acting chief James Russo. 

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Town Council will look at getting lifeguards at their next meeting. 

They had received a proposal from Pompano Beach to provide lifeguards. It would entail two lifeguards. Seven days a week, at a cost of $200,000 a year. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.