Lee Goggin and his family were on the way to Disney World, when they decided to stop at a beach in St. Augustine, Florida. Unfortunately, the dad didn’t know about the dangers of playing in the soft sand of the Florida dunes.


As CBS 47 reports, the 35-year-old father of three from Texas began digging a tunnel in the side of a sand dune while his family played on the beach. They had some time to kill before checking into their hotel, and plenty of energy to burn.

At one point, one of the children joined Goggin in the tunnel, but then crawled back out. It was when Goggin himself had turned around that the tunnel collapsed, burying him in an estimated ton of sand.

Goggin’s sister saw the collapse and screamed for help. His father and brother-in-law tried to dig him out of the sand dune, but it took less than a minute for them to realize how serious the situation was and called 911.

According to Local 10 News, rescuers removed about three or four feet of sand before they uncovered Goggin’s head. After stabilizing him on the beach, emergency crews rushed him to a local hospital, where he was put in a medically induced coma.

On the GoFundMe page set up to help with medical costs, Goggin’s sister wrote that he has a heartbeat, but cannot breathe on his own. As of Monday, doctors were preparing to bring Goggin out of the coma and test his neurological function.

Goggin reportedly went past a “do not enter” sign in order to get to the beach, and was likely unaware that digging in (or altering) the sand dunes is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida.

Christine Felton, who saw the family on the beach just before the accident, thinks a warning sign might be helpful to keep visitors from playing on the dunes. She told CBS 47:

“I hate to see signs on the beautiful beaches because they’re not natural either, but lives are more important.”

What makes sand dunes so dangerous is the unstable nature of sand. As civil engineering professor Dr. Nick Hudyma told Local 10 News, what happened to Goggin is very similar to what happens when a sand castle collapses:

“If you have some nice moist sand you can make beautiful sand sculptures or sandcastles that have vertical walls. However, if you change the moisture in the sand, so, for instance, the sand begins to dry out or it starts raining, what you’ll notice is your sandcastle is going to fall apart.”

The next few days will be critical to Goggin’s recovery. Back home in Irving, Texas, friends and coworkers are praying that Goggin beats the odds. In the video below, a coworker who has seen Goggin overcome plenty of obstacles told WFAA News:

“We really need a miracle for him to pull through with this.”

Watch coverage of the story below:

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