Sloan and Maddox Mattingly, from Indiana, were like any other kids enjoying a day at the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. They were playing and digging in the sand.

But something went terribly wrong. The sand suddenly collapsed on them, trapping Sloan, who was 7 years old. Despite efforts to rescue her, she didn’t make it. Her older brother, Maddox, who is 9, was also trapped and is now in the hospital fighting for his life.

Their parents, Therese and Jason Mattingly, are devastated by this unexpected tragedy. They had brought their kids to Florida from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to escape the cold winter and have fun at the beach. On February 20, around 3 p.m., they were all enjoying their time at the beach when the accident happened.

And then, the family vacation left them with a memory nobody wanted.

“Everybody’s screaming,” cried a beachgoer, who after seeing people frantically digging through a hole, called 911.

According to People, the caller told dispatch, “There’s a child that they’re trying to get out.” The caller then explained she heard the children’s father “yelling for help because his child is caught in a hole in the sand,” and while she was on the phone, the caller said the mom began yelling, “My daughter’s in there.”

Sloan and Maddox were stuck in the sand hole, and the sand was covering them up.

Emergency teams from NBC came to help. They used special boards to stop more sand from falling and shovels to dig Sloan and her brother out of the big hole. We’re not sure how long they were stuck before they were rescued.

Both kids were taken to the hospital. Sadly, Sloan passed away there. Maddox is in critical condition, and we don’t know how he’s doing yet.

“Our family had a terrible accident while we were on vacation, and it took our wonderful Sloan away from us. She was 7 and a half. Please don’t say you’re sorry for our loss… We got to know the best person ever, and she changed our lives forever,” wrote Sloan’s mom on a GoFundMe page to help their family. “We love you more than you can imagine. Our sweet Sloan. We miss you so much.”

The GoFundMe page has raised nearly $146,000 out of its $150,000 target. It says, “What began as a wonderful family vacation turned into a heartbreaking tragedy with the loss of their 7-year-old daughter/sister, Sloan. We understand that money can’t bring Sloan back, but your donation can help bring Sloan home from Florida, cover funeral expenses, and lessen the financial burden as they adjust to their new life.”

Meanwhile, friends and family are sending lots of love and messages for the “sweet girl” who “was so much more than her last moments.”

Whitney Kanjala, a friend of the family, shared a photo of them outside Sloan’s Luxury Ice Cream shop in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. On Facebook, she wrote, “She was the funniest friend you could ever ask for, the most loyal sister, the [tiniest] yet most acrobatic…and one of the greatest creations Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly ever made.”

On February 22, Sloan’s father also posted the same photo, saying, “We took Sloan to this ice cream shop with her name on it. It was a rainy nasty day but we made the best of what we had. We also hit up a local arcade and sang makeshift karaoke at our Airbnb.”

One local person told CBS, “I’ve lived here 50 years, I’ve never seen anything like that,” referring to the beach where the accident happened. “I’m shocked. I’m absolutely shocked. I had no idea that digging out…something could happen where it could collapse underneath someone just hanging out and playing on the beach.”

Another local shared his thoughts about what might have caused the hole.

Talking to NBC Miami, local Harry Defina explained that the children were playing in a hole that a man had dug just about 30 minutes before the tragedy happened.

“I was walking by the beach, and I saw a man digging a really big hole… up to his chest. I looked at him, he looked back at me, and I walked away. I didn’t think to go over and tell him not to do it,” Defina said. “I’m even upset that someone would think those kids dug that hole. They didn’t dig it. It was huge, like 18 feet long and 6 feet wide.”

Defina was struggling to keep from crying as he described what he saw when the kids were buried: “I see kids in the hole. I could see the boy a little bit, but all I can see… I’m not going to be able to finish this… all I could see was the top of the girl’s head.”

Police are still looking into what happened, and t

“The recent accident in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a sad reminder of why we need to work together to keep our beaches safe,” said Bernard J. Fisher II, the director of health and safety for the association. “By taking these steps and creating a community that cares about safety, we can prevent more tragedies and make sure our beaches stay happy places for everyone to enjoy.”

The association wants to see more beach patrols in areas where people dig in the sand.

Rest in peace, little one. It’s so sad that innocent kids were just having fun when something terrible happened.

Please share this story to show support for the grieving family.

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