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Boy rescued after being buried in sand in Manhattan Beach

July 27, 2010 |  9:46 am

An 11-year old boy burrowing in a deep sand hole in Manhattan Beach ended up buried for five minutes before he could be rescued, authorities said Tuesday.

The boy, who was visiting the beach at 8th Street with family members Sunday afternoon, was on his hands and knees about 6 feet down in a hole he was digging diagonally toward another hole his cousin was digging nearby, said Battalion Chief Dave Shenbaum of the Manhattan Beach Fire Department.

The boy was trying to connect the two holes into a tunnel when he was buried by an avalanche of sand.

"He had about 6 feet of sand above him coming down on him," Shenbaum said.

When the boy's cousin looked up and didn't see him, she asked a man playing on the beach with his son for help. The man, realizing the boy was probably buried, called others on the beach to help him.

"About 20 other beach-goers started to dig frantically," Shenbaum said.

About three lifeguards joined the efforts, officials said, and the boy was pulled from the sand after five minutes, unconscious and unresponsive.

"He was seconds away from death," said Shenbaum, who arrived later with paramedics. "The great part of this story is that you had beach patrons and bystanders working together with county lifeguards in a joint effort to dig this kid out and save his life."

Rescuers performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and "in a very short period of time, he started to breathe on his own," Shenbaum said.

The time factor was so crucial that if beach-goers had called only paramedics and waited without doing anything, "he would have been dead," Shenbaum said.

"One hundred percent," he added.

The boy was taken to Harbor General Hospital, where he was alert and answering questions, officials said.

"The county beaches have an ordinance where it's illegal to dig these types of holes to prevent just these types of accidents," Shenbaum said. "They do a very good job of preventing them, which is why you don't hear about many of them."

While most beach-goers build sand castles and small holes, those digging several feet down are generally cautioned by lifeguards to stop. The same goes for people burying themselves feet-first in the sand. Lying parallel on the sand and being covered with a few inches of sand is not a problem, but putting one's body straight down in the sand is not allowed.

"The problem with the sand is it's so dense," Shenbaum said. "You remove one bucket of sand and two buckets fall into its place."

-- Carla Hall