‘My daughter is in there’: mother’s anguish as rescuers tried to save girl buried on beach

Sloan Mattingly smiles as she looks at the camera while standing on a beach. She is making a heart shape with her hands and the sea is behind her.
Sloan Mattingly, five, was digging on the beach with her brother when the sand collapsed on them - WSVN

The cries of a distraught mother whose five-year-old daughter was buried alive on a Florida beach can be heard in audio of the emergency call which reported the tragedy.

Sloan Mattingly died on Tuesday after a hole she was digging with her brother Maddox, nine, caved in. Maddox was pulled out by his father, Jason Mattingly, and survived.

“I’m on the beach and there’s a child that they’re trying to get out,” a female bystander told a 911 emergency service operator in an audio recording released late on Wednesday.

She explained that a “bunch of people were trying to dig” on the beach at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, north of Miami, before telling the operator that the girl’s father was “yelling for help” and that his daughter was “caught in a hole in the sand”.

“The mom’s yelling, ‘My daughter is in there,’” the caller added. “Everybody’s screaming.” Shouting from other people can be heard throughout the duration of the 911 call.

Sloan Mattingly and mother Therese Mattingly
Sloan with her mother, Therese

After the operator told the woman that the emergency services were on their way, the caller said that those helping still “have not gotten the child out” and that they’re still “digging”.

She reported that the “whole body” of the girl was still under the sand. The operator then asked if “the child’s head is above the sand” to which she responded: “They do not see her head.”

‘Oh, this is awful’

The caller said the sheriff had arrived and rescuers were waiting for a fire crew to assist them. “They need help,” the woman added. “They really do.”

As the operator continued to ask the woman questions, the caller noticed the anguish cries of Sloan’s mother, Therese. “Oh, this mother… oh, this is awful,” she said.

Sloan was pronounced dead after being dug out from the sand and taken to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. She was buried for roughly 20 minutes.

When the 5-to-6ft-deep hole collapsed, the weight of the sand buried Sloan completely while her brother was buried up to his chest.

Video footage showed rescuers using their hands to try to dig the girl out. The family, who are from Fort Wayne, Indiana, were on holiday in Florida.

“It was an unfathomable accident,” said Sandra King, a spokesman for the Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.

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