Student dies in beach sand pit: Experts warn of suffocation danger

A student who died in a Southern California beach sand pit collapse is among dozens who have suffocated in the little-recognized recreational danger. Health experts warn never to step into a sand hole deeper than knee-level.

A South Korean exchange student  suffocated in Southern California beach sand pit on Wednesday, in what experts have warned is a recreational hazard few recognize.

Sharks and drowning may be chief beach-going concerns, but the popular beach pastime of digging sand holes has raised concern among health experts who have studied dozens of accidental deaths like that of Mingyu "Paul" Sang on Wednesday.  Mr. Sang and students and staff from The Master's College,   a small Christian college in Santa Clarita, Calif. dug a hole that was 6 feet  to 8 feet deep. Sang had climbed inside when it collapsed and buried him.

There were 52 documented fatal and nonfatal cases of accidents in dry-sand holes excavated for recreational purposes in the decade between 1997 and 2007, noted a June 2007 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from Bradley A. Maron, a Harvard Medical School physician; his son Barry J. Maron a doctor at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation; and Tammy S. Haas, a nurse at the Foundation.

“During the summer-recreation and beach season, we believe it is timely to underscore a potential but underrecognized safety risk associated with leisure activities in open-sand environments,” the letter said. “The most common setting [is] a public beach in a coastal area, near the shoreline (in 41 cases), with the remaining cases (11 cases) occurring near the home.”

The letter noted settings familiar to anyone who has gone to the beach: 'Typically, victims became 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. Collapse was inadvertently triggered by a variety of circumstances, including digging, tunneling, jumping, or falling into the hole. These collapses resulted in the death of 31 persons. The other 21 persons  survived by virtue of timely rescue involving extrication from the sand; many of them required cardiopulmonary resuscitation, performed by a bystander.”

The best way to avoid danger is to not let young kids play in sand unattended and never to get in a hole deeper than knee level, the elder Maron and other experts told the Associated Press in 2007.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.