With the summer beach season fast approaching, one North Carolina coastal town is sounding the alarm over a danger many people never think about.
“I guess we need to say it a little louder for the people in the back,” the Town of Kill Devil Hills posted on its Facebook page. “Digging holes on the beach and leaving them unattended is extremely dangerous.”
The post included emojis for megaphones and warning signs, and much of it was written in all caps to emphasize their scream.
The post also came with a picture of the town’s ocean rescue supervisor, David Elder, standing in a hole more than 7 feet deep. The pit was the size of a grave, an appropriate comparison, according to officials.
“Did you know that national statistics comparing sand hole collapses to shark attacks confirms that you are far more likely to experience a sand hole collapse than a shark attack,” officials posted.
Getting buried under the sand, or under the sand near the water, can have deadly consequences.
The Kill Devils Hill warning came just hours before a teenager from Maine died when a hole collapsed on him on a New Jersey beach.
Elder told the Associated Press that members of his staff had warned the people digging the hole about the dangers while they were doing it. They had vowed to fill it before leaving the beach, but that didn’t happen.
“Some people said there was an issue, and sure enough, I could see it from where I was standing,” he said.
Elder said collapsed holes don’t present a danger to just those inside them, but to other unsuspecting visitors. They can also trap sea turtles and other animals, and damage rescue vehicles.
“No one goes to the beach thinking that they will leave with a broken ankle or worse. Unattended holes can cause numerous injuries to other beach-goers,” the post says.
Elder has several stories of hole digging turning into tragedy at beaches up and down the coast. He said it often occurs when people look for alternative forms of entertainment rather than just going in the water or sunning on the beach.
“Sadly, this is the way people choose to spend their time,” Elder said.
One person became trapped when he attempted to tunnel between two holes and it all collapsed on him. Another girl died when a swale came in and buried her underwater in a deep hole along the shore.
Elder’s advice for those looking to dig?
“Digging holes in the sand can be a serious hazard. If you want to dig a hole on the beach, only dig shallow holes and always fill them in once you’re finished. Help keep everyone on our beaches safe.”
As long as you avoid digging holes, the Outer Banks is a premier beach spot: