Man goes into cardiac arrest after sand collapses on Florida beach

Crews rescue man on Crescent Beach

Lee Goggin.
Lee Goggin.

CRESCENT BEACH, Fla. – A man vacationing in Florida from Texas had to be dug out of at least 4 feet of sand by hand Sunday after a tunnel he'd dug in a dune collapsed on him on Crescent Beach, St. Johns County deputies said.

Rescue crews were called about 1:40 p.m. after Lee Goggin, 35, became trapped under the sand.

He was pulled unconscious from the dune and rushed to Flagler Hospital in critical condition, deputies said.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by Goggin's family, he has a heartbeat but is not breathing on his own. Loved ones asked for prayers for Goggin, his wife and their three children, ages 4, 2 and 8 months.

The page has raised nearly $7,000 in 14 hours.

Goggin's sister told deputies that their family was headed to Disney World on vacation and had stopped at the beach near the Spyglass Condominiums in St. Augustine to let the children play before continuing to Orlando.

Goggin's family said that as the children were playing, Goggin started to dig a tunnel in the soft, white sand of a dune next to a public beach access ramp. At one point, one of the children also went into the tunnel, but then got out again, deputies said.

According to the family, Goggin turned around in the tunnel and started digging backward when the dune above collapsed on him, completely covering him.

Goggin's sister said she saw the collapse and screamed for help. Goggin's father, brother-in-law and other family members frantically tried digging him out by hand and using a skim board, according to an incident report.

The family said they realized the seriousness within a minute of trying to dig and called 911.

Rescue arrived and helped dig Goggin out. According to the report, about 3 to 4 feet of compacted sand was removed before they found Goggin's head.

Officials said Goggin went into cardiac arrest during the incident.

Once he was pulled out, rescue began treating him on the beach for critical injuries before he was carried to an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

Deputies said they filled in the hole after the scene was cleared.

UNF Civil Engineering professor Dr. Nick Hudyma used building a sandcastle as an analogy for what he believes happened to Goggin.

“If you have some nice moist sand you can make beautiful sand sculptures or sandcastles that have vertical walls,” Hudyma said. “However, if you change the moisture in the sand, so, for instance, the sand begins to dry out or it starts raining, what you’ll notice is your sandcastle is going to fall apart.”

Crescent Beach is south of Jacksonville on Florida's Atlantic coast.