Parents of 7-Year-Old Who Died in Sand Hole Break Their Silence: Urgent Warning for Spring Break Season

The grieving parents of Sloan Mattingly, the 7-year-old Indiana girl who tragically lost her life in a devastating incident on a Florida beach, are bravely sharing their story to raise awareness about the hidden dangers that can lurk in seemingly innocent places.

Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly recently shared their heartfelt memories of their daughter in an emotional interview with Good Morning America’s Erielle Reshef. They lovingly described her as a radiant source of happiness and positivity.

«She just lived life,» said Jason of his little girl, who loved unicorns and Taylor Swift. Every morning, she would wake up from sleep with a burst of energy, ready to conquer the day. She would always be filled with joy.

Therese mentioned that she wasn’t really interested in the typical «Take me to Disney» kind of experience. She was all, ‘Hey, let’s dance in the living room!’ So we did.»

While enjoying a family vacation to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea on Feb. 20, Sloan and her brother Maddox, 9, were happily searching for seashells in the sand. However, an unexpected incident occurred when a hole suddenly opened up and swallowed both siblings, leaving them trapped. Therese and Jason were quick to react, immediately digging to rescue their children as the sand swallowed them.

Jason said, «It was kind of a blur. Maybe that’s just my mind protecting itself, but it happened so fast. I thought I had her in my arms, but the sand was too heavy.»

«It didn’t matter that we were right there,» Therese said. It was just a hole, and after that there was nothing. After that, it’s just chaos and horror.»

Several beachgoers rushed to the scene, quickly springing into action to assist in the rescue. They immediately dialed 9-1-1 and worked together to locate the children trapped in the deep hole. Maddix was the first to be rescued, while Sloan endured over 15 minutes of being trapped before finally being freed. She showed no signs of response and was taken to a nearby hospital, where she unfortunately passed away.

Therese and Jason shared with GMA their overwhelming sense of panic as they frantically searched for their children.

They expressed their appreciation for the first responders, hospital workers, and the kind people on the beach who extended their support. «Everyone gave it their all, but unfortunately, things didn’t go our way,» Jason expressed.

«I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,» Therese said, to those fellow beachgoers. «You witnessed our horror.»
The Mattingly family is filled with hope that by sharing Sloan’s story, it can serve as a message of caution for other families. This is particularly important as many families head to the beaches for the spring break season.

«You go to the beach you think of water safety, and this never ever once crossed my mind,» noted Therese. «And of course looking now it’s like, ‘Of course.’ And that’s where it becomes incredibly frustrating.

According to experts, it is recommended that the depth of any hole dug in the sand should not exceed the knee height of the shortest person involved in the digging. But that sign or warnings about sinkholes aren’t often put up on beaches. Jason and Therese want that to change.
«And strangers, if you see something that’s dangerous, take the courage and say something,» said Jason.

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