Family pay tribute to ‘perfect’ girl, seven, buried alive while digging sand hole on Florida beach

Family pay tribute to ‘perfect’ girl, seven, buried alive while digging sand hole on Florida beach

The heartbroken family of a girl who died after being buried by sand on a beach in Florida have paid tribute to the “purest human being”.

Sloan Mattingly, seven, had been helping to dig a deep hole with her nine-year-old brother Maddox when it collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

Beachgoers in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea rushed to pull out the pair but Sloan lost her fight for life in hospital.

She was reportedly buried in the 1.8m (6ft) deep pit for around 20 minutes.

Her brother remains in hospital in a stable condition.

Her mother Therese posted on a GoFundMe page which has already raised $140,000 (£110,000): “A freak accident happened yesterday while we are here on vacation.

“It took away our greatest seven-and-a-half years.

“Don’t tell us you’re sorry for our loss… don’t do that to us.

“We experienced the purest human being and we are forever changed by her.

“We love you beyond any stretch of the imagination. Our sweet Sloan. What we would give.”

Sloan Mattingly, seven (GoFundMe)
Sloan Mattingly, seven (GoFundMe)

Her father Jason Mattingly posted a photo on Facebook of a ray of light shining on the beach.

He wrote: “This beam of light was photographed the day after the tragedy.

“I truly appreciate whoever took it and let us know our baby is in heaven.”

Sloan’s uncle Chris Sloan told local station KFOR-TV: “She was always happy.

“She was really fun to be around. She had a lot of energy and just totally innocent, and that’s what hurts the most in all this.”

Investigators on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (AP)
Investigators on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (AP)

Sloan and her family were on vacation in Florida from Fort Wayne, Indiana when tragedy struck on February 20.

Rescuers arrived in minutes as bystanders attempted to free the children.

Witness Harry Defina told NBC News he believed Sloan’s father had also been helping to dig the hole moments before the collapse.

He added: “I could see the boy a little bit, but all I can see… was the top of the girl’s head. I saw the father was just beside himself.

“It’s still such an upsetting episode to have been there.”

Sandra King, a spokesperson for the Pompano Beach Fire-Rescue Department, said last week crews used shovels to dig out the sand and boards to stabilise the hole.

However, Sloan had no pulse and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Collapsed sand holes have proven deadly for beachgoers in the past.

Two years ago, an 18-year-old died after he and his 17-year-old sister were trapped in a sand collapse at a beach in Ocean County, New Jersey. His sister was rescued by the police.

The American Lifeguard Association is warning about the dangers of digging holes on beaches, with the group urging authorities to step up patrols in areas where the activity is known to be popular.

Bernard J Fisher II, director of health and safety, said: “The recent incident in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a heart-wrenching reminder of why we must work together to keep our beaches safe.”