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Parents Of 7-Year-Old Who Died After Being Trapped In Beach Sinkhole Speak About The Devastating Tragedy

Parents Of 7-Year-Old Who Died After Getting Trapped In A Sand Hole Speak Out About The Tragedy

[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]

The parents of the 7-year-old girl who died after getting trapped in a sand sinkhole on a beach last month are opening up about the unthinkable tragedy for the first time.

On February 20, Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly took their daughter Sloan and 9-year-old son Maddox to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach during a Florida vacation. What started as a fun day at the shore soon became a nightmare for the Indiana family. The siblings were digging in the sand to find some seashells when a six-foot-deep hole suddenly collapsed on both of them, and Sloan was buried alive beneath Maddox.

The parents immediately sprung into action to try and save their kids. When alerted to the terrifying situation, fellow beachgoers attempted to help, too, with some frantically calling 911 and others working with Therese and Jason to get the two children out of the sunken hole. Maddox had been pulled out first. However, Sloan remained trapped in the sand for a lot longer. It wasn’t until 20 minutes later that first responders managed to free her from the hole. Maddox and Sloan, who was unresponsive, were rushed to Broward General Medical Center. The young boy was in stable condition. Sadly, Sloan did not make it. She was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterward. Incredibly heartbreaking…

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Now, weeks later, Therese and Jason recalled the events of that horrible day in an emotional interview with Good Morning America on Thursday. Looking back, the father remembered everything “happened so fast” at the time:

“The kids were looking up, you know, finding seashells and playing in the sand. … It was kind of a blur, and it’s probably maybe my mind protecting myself, but it just happened so fast. In my mind, I had her in my hands, but the weight of the sand was too much.”

Therese added that the next thing they knew, it was just “chaos and horror” for them:

“It didn’t matter that we were literally right there. It was just a hole and then it was nothing. And then it just becomes chaos and horror.”

While trying to rescue Maddox and Sloan, Therese and Jason told the outlet it felt like time stood still on that beach. And no matter how hard anyone tried, they unfortunately lost their little girl. Jason expressed gratitude to the first responders, doctors, and beachgoers who helped and offered their support during this difficult moment:

“Everyone tried their hardest but unfortunately, it didn’t work out in our favor.”

Therese tearfully said she was “so sorry” that everyone on the beach “witnessed our horror.” Oof. Now, as families head to beaches for spring break over the next few weeks, the Mattingly’s hope by sharing what happened to Sloan is that they can prevent anyone else from experiencing a tragedy like this. Therese pointed out:

“You go to the beach you think of water safety, and this never ever once crossed my mind. And of course looking now it’s like, ‘Of course.’ And so that’s where it’s really frustrating.”

According to GMA, experts warned that holes in the sand pose a serious danger and should be no deeper than the knee of the shortest person digging it. However, that warning isn’t posted on beaches usually. So Therese and Jason hope that will soon change after Sloan’s death. The dad said:

“If we can do anything to save another family from going through this, whether that’s signage, beach patrol, and strangers, if you see something that’s dangerous, take the courage and say something.”

In the wake of what happened, the town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea has decided to create a national safety campaign. Mayor Chris Vincent told GMA:

“We will share it with as many coastal communities as possible. To help prevent another unimaginable tragedy. We’re also discussing how we monitor our beach, a local Ordinance to ban digging on our beach, and the best way to honor Sloan.”

What happened to Sloan is so awful. Our hearts go out to Therese, Jason, and Maddox. Watch the interview (below):

[Image via ABC 7/Good Morning America/YouTube, GoFundMe]

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Mar 14, 2024 14:34pm PDT