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article imageCalifornia beachgoer suffocates when sand hole collapses

By Nathan Salant     Jul 25, 2014 in Environment
Half Moon Bay - A young California man died Monday when a deep hole he was digging at a popular Half Moon Bay beach collapsed, trapping him below ground for a half-hour.
Adam Jay Pye, 26, of San Lorenzo was pulled from the hole after 35 minutes but could not be revived and was declared dead at the scene, according to the San Jose Mercury News newspaper.
Pye was digging his second 10-foot deep hole at Francis Beach and was planning to connect the holes with a tunnel when the collapse occurred and he suffocated, the newspaper said.
A state firefighter who responded to the scene said Jonathan Cox had been "buried alive" by the sand that unexpectedly rushed in and refilled the holes before the 20-year-old could climb out.
"The sand had just engulfed this young man -- he was standing up straight, like a soldier with his hands to his sides," the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection's Capt. Jonathan Cox told the newspaper.
"He was buried alive in that hole that he dug," Cox said.
Dozens of beachgoers who rushed to the scene when the collapse occurred, and more than two dozen state and county dozen firefighters who also responded, were able to pull Pye from the hole, but it was too late.
A short time earlier, firefighters were able to free Pye's head and connect an air tube, but it was unclear whether he ever resumed normal breathing.
"Sand is an extremely difficult substance to rescue anyone out of, especially when they're completely buried in it," Cox said.
"It took a really concerted effort to pull the sand back, and there was a really overwhelming number of people -- in a good way -- who were digging to get him out," he said.
Pye had been visiting with family friends near the state beach's RV park when he began to dig the holes with a young woman.
It was not immediately known what caused the tunnel to collapse, Cox said.
A witness visiting the beach from Utah, George Frey, said he and his wife noticed the tide beginning to come in when he heard sirens and saw people running to the scene.
"I left my daughter, ran over there and started digging with them," Frey said.
Frey said rescuers had to dig four-feet down before reaching the top of Pye's head.
"It was quite a sight, the people coming together giving everything they had to save this kid -- they were dripping in sweat and exhausted, but they didn't stop," Frey said.
But Frey said rescuers were frustrated by the amount of sand that kept rushing back into hole as they dug.
Members of the group eventually began taking metal signs from the beach and using them to stop the rush of sand, the newspaper said.
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