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Beachgoers warned about digging holes after teen buried alive

August 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities are warning beachgoers to be careful about digging holes after a teenager was buried alive at Newport Beach.

On Wednesday, 17-year-old Matt Mina dug a hole about 7 feet deep in the sand when the walls caved in on him. Lifeguards and beachgoers started digging him out using buckets, boards and anything else they could find. Firefighters then joined the rescue efforts.

But the more they dug, the more the sand kept pouring in.

"They cut a hole in a bucket and put a bucket over his head because the sand kept filling in and it was getting into his mouth and then they got oxygen to him," said Rick Shepherd of Newport Beach.

Crews were able to pull Mina up nearly half an hour later. He was taken to a hospital and later released.

On Thursday, Mina's mother thanked firefighters and the good Samaritans who helped save her son's life. The accident happened while Mina was visiting his cousins in the area.

Shepherd said it was terrifying to see the teen buried alive.

"We thought we were actually going to pull up a dead body to be honest with you. All the girls were crying. I mean, it was a tear jerker, and then when they pulled him up...everybody clapped," he said. "God was with him."

Authorities said they stop people all the time from digging large holes in the sand and they train for emergencies just like this. They warned that it's very dangerous to dig holes because the sand is unstable. Newport Beach Fire Batt. Chief Jim Turner said people don't realize just how quickly they can become trapped.

"We stop people from digging because it can collapse on them in an instant and it's very, very dangerous," he said. "It's a very, very heavy substance and it just traps, it collapses on your chest and you suffocate."

Officials said Mina is truly lucky to be alive. About 30 years ago in Newport Beach they had an unfortunate fatality when a young boy was buried beneath the sand.

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