A 7-Year-Old Girl Has Died After Getting Trapped In The Sand On A Florida Beach

Sloan and Maddox Mattingly from Indiana did what all kids do when they can feel the soft sand on their toes. They started to dig and play.

At Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach, however, the sand took on a life of its own and swallowed the two siblings. Sloan, 7, died, and Maddox, 9, is still fighting for his life in the hospital.

Family and friends of the children are now trying to make sense of the “freak accident” that killed the “purest human being.”

It was cold in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the middle of February, so Therese and Jason Mattingly packed up their two kids, Maddox, 9, and Sloan, 7, and went to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida, to visit family.

Before 3 p.m. on February 20, the family was at the beach creating memories. The kids were playing in a big sand hole next to their guardians.

Next, the family trip left them with a memory that no one wanted.

“Everyone is screaming!” yelled someone on the beach who saw people digging through a hole quickly and then called 911.

The person who called said, “There’s a child that they’re trying to get out,” according to People. The caller then said she heard the father of the children “yelling for help because his child is caught in a hole in the sand.” While she was on the phone, the mother started to yell, “My daughter’s in there!”

Sloan and Maddox were both stuck in the sand hole, as the brothers were being buried alive.

Attempts to save
NBC reports that several emergency services arrived at the scene and used boards to keep the sand from falling further and tools to help Sloan and her brother get out of the big hole. It’s not clear how long they were stuck before they were freed.

Both kids were taken to the hospital, but Sloan died there.

Maddox was said to be in serious condition, and we don’t know how his recovery is going at this point.

“A freak accident happened yesterday while we are here on vacation and 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,” writes her mom on the GoFundMe created to financially support the family. “We love you beyond any stretch of the imagination. Our sweet Sloan. What we would give.”

The GoFundMe page, which has surpassed the $150,000 goal, says, “What started as an amazing family trip quickly turned into the devastatingly tragic loss of their 7-year-old daughter/sister Sloan. We know that no amount of money will bring beautiful Sloan back, but your donation can help bring Sloan home from Florida, cover funeral costs and ease the financial stress as they learn to navigate their new world.”

At the same time, many words of love are coming in for the “sweet girl” who “was SO much bigger than her last moments.”

A friend of the family, Whitney Kanjala, sends a picture of the family outside of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s Sloan’s Luxury Ice Cream Shop. Along with the picture on her. She writes on Facebook, “She was the funniest friend you could ever ask for, the most loyal sister, the [tiniest] yet most acrobatic…and one of the greatest creations Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly ever made.”

The same picture was shared by Sloan’s dad on February 22: “We took Sloan to this ice cream shop with her name on it. It was a rainy nasty day but we made the best of what we had. We also hit up a local arcade and sang makeshift karaoke at our Airbnb.”

Locals “devastated” and “shocked”
“I’ve lived here 50 years, I’ve never seen anything like that,” one local told CBS of the beach that currently has no lifeguards on duty. “I’m shocked. I’m absolutely shocked. I had no idea that digging out…something could happen where it could collapse underneath someone just hanging out and playing on the beach.”

Another person from the area gave his own ideas about what the hole was.

A resident of Miami, Harry Defina, told NBC Miami that the kids were playing in a hole that a man had dug earlier, just 30 minutes before the accident.

“I was walking by the beach, and I saw a man…digging a really big hole…up to his chest. I looked at him and he looked back, and I walked away, I didn’t think to go over and tell him not to do it,” Defina said. “I’m even upset that someone would imply that those kids dug that hole. They didn’t dig that hole. It was massive and it ended up like 18-feet-by-6-feet.”

He tells what he saw when the kids were buried, but he can’t help but cry: “I see kids in the hole. I could see the boy a little bit, but all I can see…I’m not going to be able to finish this…all I could see was the top of the girl’s head.”

The American Lifeguard Association also issued a warning about the dangers of sand holes because of the event, which is still being looked into by police.

“The recent incident in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a heart-wrenching reminder of why we must work together to keep our beaches safe,” said Bernard J. Fisher II, the association’s director of health and safety. “By implementing these measures and fostering a community of safety and awareness, we can prevent future tragedies and ensure that our beaches remain places of joy and recreation for everyone.”

The group wants more beach patrols in places where people are known to dig in the sand.

Rest in peace, little one. It’s so sad that something so horrible happened while the kids were doing something so harmless.

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