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Florida Man Buried Alive in a Sand Dune While Recording Sunrise

It's the third incident in the past few months.

A man in Florida died after he was buried by a sand dune that collapsed on him, authorities said. The accident occurred Sunday morning on Rock Beach on Hutchinson Island, a barrier island about 100 miles north of Miami. As unusual as the incident may seem, it's actually the third time something similar has happened in the past few months, in varying parts of the U.S. Read on to find out more.

How the Victim Was Discovered

police tape and police cars

The man was identified as 37-year-old Sean Alexander Nagel form Stuart, Florida. According to the Martin County Sheriff's Office, he was discovered around 9 a.m. Sunday when a woman who was searching the beach for turtle nesting sites saw a pair of legs sticking out from the sand and called for help.

Nagel "died hours earlier from asphyxia as a result of being trapped in the sand," Sheriff William Snyder told WPTV. "It was an unusual scene with his feet sticking out of the sand and then of course we had to dig down and find the body," Snyder said. "It revealed some sand in his lungs." A GoPro camera and a plastic bag were found next to Nagel's body, reported

How Did This Happen?

sunny beach with sand dunes and blue sky

Detectives believe Nagel was laying underneath a sand dune with his feet up while recording video of a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean between 5 and 6 a.m. when the dune collapsed, trapping and suffocating him. 

The reason the sand collapsed is unclear. "Somehow while he was there, inexplicably, we don't know why, that beach erosion, mountain of sand, collapsed on him," said Snyder. "Obviously, he was unable to get out, and he expired. The cause of death is asphyxiation."

No Foul Play

police officer speaking into radio

Authorities don't suspect foul play. Toxicology tests are being conducted on Nagel's body, but the sheriff's office said the results were unlikely to change their conclusion that what happened was a "tragic accident."

Nagel Remembered by Family, Friends

closeup of a funeral burial

"I am grief-stricken and still in disbelief to tell you all that my younger brother Sean Alexander Nagel is no longer with us on this earth," Nagel's older brother, Will, wrote on Facebook. "Sean died tragically and accidentally on Sunday August 7th, 2022 when a sand dune at the beach here in Martin County collapsed on top of him."

He added: "Please remember to enjoy your life and don't take a single second for granted."

Other Fatal Sand Collapses Have Occurred

Coastal erosion of the cliffs at Skipsea, Yorkshire on the Holderness coast

Although fatalities from collapsing sand are rare, they're not unheard of. In May, two teenagers were buried while digging a 10-foot-deep sand hole at a New Jersey beach. Eighteen-year-old Levi Caverley was killed; his sister, 17, was rescued. Also that month, a 13-year-old died at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah ​​when a tunnel he was digging in a sand dune collapsed on him.  

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a seasoned writer and editor with a passion for helping people make life-improving decisions. Read more
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