Rethinking Sand Hole Dangers After Last Monday’s Tragedy In O.C.


Officials in Ocean City and along the shore have been troubled after the discovery of a dead woman found buried on the beach in O.C. last Monday at 2nd Street. Exactly how that happened to the victim, Ashley O’Connor, 30, from Plano, Texas, remains unclear. But the medical examiner has ruled her death to be accidental caused by asphyxia due to suffocation. She somehow entered the ditch in the sand that had been dug probably hours earlier.

At some point the trench apparently collapsed on her, police said. It was not until around 6:30 a.m. that beach goers discovered her arm sticking out of the sand as tractors were performing their morning beach sweeping. Did a tractor cause the hole to collapse? “At this time,” says Lindsay Richard, OCPD spokeswoman, “detectives continue to investigate how O’Connor became covered with sand. No conclusions have been made yet.”

Everybody has become “much more cautious now” after what happened last week, says Tony Crivella, whose company, Dewey Beach Beautification & Raking, has been sweeping Delaware beaches since 1993. He has been “calling out” beach goers who have been digging dangerous ditches and frequently posts troubling photos on his company’s Facebook page, and initiated this lengthy discussion last summer.

“We do see occasional deep holes,” he says, and “August is the biggest month for digging in the sand. Occasionally I see guys bring regular big shovels down the beach and just really go to town.” Crivella says his workers try to fill in all holes every night to discourage other beach visitors from digging similar trenches.

If caused by a tractor, could a tragedy like the one in Ocean City happen at the Delaware beaches? “I don’t think so,” Crivella says. “Usually when you dig a hole, the sand is on the outside of the hole much like a crater. Ocean City uses huge tractors that are very wide and could straddle the holes much better than I can in addition to running much faster,” he points out.

So although he stays vigilant, Crivella says Ocean City would be more prone to such an accident. With his smaller tractors, he has to “be very cautious around the holes so I won’t get stuck. So I’m going very slow.”

A gofundme page has been established for O’Connor. Final autopsy results are pending.

Photos courtesy Tony Crivella, Dewey Beach Beautification & Raking