Thirty-year-old Ashley O’Connor was visiting Ocean City, Maryland, with her family. The woman from Plano, Texas was last seen in the early hours of the morning on July 31.
According to reports, she was spotted walking alone on the beach around 2 a.m. after she had become separated from her family.
At 6:30 a.m., beachgoers found O’Connor still on the beach. Sadly, she was deceased.
O’Connor was found buried in a hole on the beach, and her body was resting in a haunting position. As Ocean City police spokeswoman Lindsay Richard told the Associated Press, only one arm was visible above the sand.
According to People, a patrol officer radioed in the horrible discovery that morning, saying, “My beach operator is telling me that all they can see is an arm sticking out of the sand.”
O’Connor’s body was removed later that day around 4 p.m.
According to the Salisbury, Maryland newspaper, Daily Times, the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled O’Connor’s death an accident, stating that she died from suffocation.
At this time, it is unknown if O’Connor accidentally fell into the hole, reportedly waist-deep, or if she climbed in; however, the hole collapsed while she was inside.
Richard told the Times, the cause of the collapse is currently under investigation, although officials accept they may never know.
The spokeswoman added that O’Connor did not drown in vomit or water, but that she drowned in sand.
Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin confirmed the dangers of very large holes that are dug on the beach, according to the Times:
“Sand is very, very unstable,” said Capt. Butch Arbin of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. “What happens is you dig down and it seems like it’ll stay there, but then suddenly it’ll cave in.”
The deeper you go, the greater the risk because once the sand at the bottom of the hole succumbs to the pressure above it you can have a very rapid cave-in, he said. During the day, the beach patrol strictly enforces an ordinance that no group may dig a hole deeper than its smallest member.
“It’s not unusual to find a deep hole dug during the night in the morning,” Arbin said. “But it’s very unusual for a deep hole during the day because we’re on alert for them.”
ABC News reports that in the past 10 years, 31 people worldwide have died when recreational holes in the sand collapsed on them.
Last summer, a toddler believed to have gone missing from a Newport, California, beach was later found buried beneath the sand after the hole he was digging collapsed on him. He was thought to be dead when he was pulled from the sand, but he thankfully recovered.
Newport Beach Lifeguard Battalion Chief Brent Jacobsen warned at the time that sand entrapment is a very real danger not many beachgoers are aware of.
“It is very easy to become entrapped,” Jacobsen said. “Sand can weigh several hundred pounds and you don’t even realize it.”
A statement released by Ocean City said the investigation into O’Connor’s death is ongoing.