Hole where woman suffocated in Ocean City sand breaks beach rules

WASHINGTON — A woman buried alive in Ocean City died in a hole someone else dug in the sand. That person contributed to her death and violated beach rules that prohibit digging deep holes in the sand, investigators said.

It is still unclear how 30-year-old Ashley O’Connor, visiting from Plano, Texas, found herself in a deep hole someone dug on the beach. Investigators are still trying to determine whether she fell in or intentionally jumped into the hole Monday morning before she was covered with sand, Lindsay Richard with Ocean City police said.

O’Connor’s death was ruled an accident by the chief medical examiner in Baltimore, who found she died of asphyxia due to suffocation.

Digging deep holes on the beach is prohibited because of the dangers they pose, said Jessica Waters with the Town of Ocean City.

Seven years ago, lifeguards were able to save a 12-year-old boy who stopped breathing after the tunnel he was digging collapsed on top of him, she said.

“Our lifeguards are trained and practice the technique to locate and extricate a trapped individual. They are also on constant surveillance and will get down from a stand to educate people and monitor people digging holes,” Waters said.

Captain Butch Arbin oversees the training of the Ocean City Beach Patrol that enforces the rule, which Waters called straightforward. “You can dig holes on the beach as long as they only take up a small area and are no deeper than the knees of the smallest person in the group. There is absolutely no tunneling allowed and you can never (should never) leave your hole unattended,” Waters wrote in an email.

The rules are posted on each lifeguard’s chair along the Ocean City beaches, she said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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