A town on North Carolina's Outer Banks issued a public plea to beachgoers about the dangers of digging holes on the oceanfront just hours before a man died at a New Jersey beach when a hole collapsed on him.
Officials from Kill Devil Hills posted a picture Tuesday on Facebook showing rescue supervisor David Elder standing in a large hole that he said was as much as 7 feet deep (2 meters) in some places. Elder said he is 6 feet, 4 inches (193 centimeters) tall.
Elder said ocean rescue staff had warned the people digging the hole about the dangers and they promised to fill it in before they left. It was still there when he went by after work, he said.
"Some people said there was an issue, and sure enough, I could see it from where I was standing," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Deep beach holes, in addition to possibly resulting in injuries for those who dig them, could delay or damage rescue vehicles operating on the beach, officials said in their online post. They can also trap sea turtles and their hatchlings, leading to fatal results, the post said.
A man commenting on the post mentioned that he broke his foot in four places and required two surgeries after stepping into a beach hole one night in 2017.
Elder said because the ocean water is cold, beachgoers tend to seek "alternate entertainment."
"Sadly, this is the way that people choose to spend their time," he said.
Elder recalled how in the town of Kitty Hawk in 1999, a teenage girl was in a deep hole on the beach that was close to the water when a swell crashed in and filled it, covering her without a way to get out.
In 2014, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, man died at Salvo, also on the Outer Banks, when sand collapsed on top of him after authorities said he was tunneling between two holes about 6 feet (1.8 meters) deep. When rescuers found the man, his family said he had been buried for up to 15 minutes, according to the National Park Service.
Police in New Jersey said an 18-year-old from Maine died on Tuesday while playing with his sister at the beach when a large hole they were digging in the sand collapsed. The Toms River Police Department said in a statement that the sister was also trapped but was rescued and treated at the scene.