“Sudden Death from Collapsing Sand Holes” is the title of a letter to the editor in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine. According to the letter, the authors found “52 documented fatal and nonfatal cases, occurring primarily in the past 10 years, in which persons were submerged after the collapse of a dry-sand hole excavated for recreational purpose.” In other words, don’t let your kid dig for China no more.
I wasn’t able to read the entire letter online, but an article in the Washington Post quoted the authors, a father-son team of doctors:
Sand hole collapses occur horrifyingly fast, said Dr. Bradley Maron of Harvard Medical School, the report’s lead author.
“Typically, victims became completely submerged in the sand when the walls of the hole unexpectedly collapsed, leaving virtually no evidence of the hole or location of the victim,” wrote Maron, an internal medicine resident.
They report 31 recreational sand hole deaths since 1985 in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand and another 21 cases in which people were rescued from a collapse, in some cases by witnesses who performed CPR.
People naturally worry about splashier threats, like shark attacks. However, the Marons’ research found there were 16 sand hole or tunnel deaths in the U.S. from 1990-2006 compared with 12 fatal shark for the same period, according to University of Florida statistics.
Well, you can’t blame the media. Sand burials just aren’t as sexy as shark bites. You can thank Jaws for that.
The letter goes on to say that the the victims were mostly boys who were twelve years old on average. The advice: don’t let your kids play in the sand unattended and don’t let them get into a hole that is deeper than their knees.
Allrighty, add that one to skin cancer and drowning on the list of things to be terrified of on an otherwise lovely day at the beach.