Police announced that they believe 30-year-old Ashley O'Connor was buried alive Monday morning, though they contend that her death was likely accidental.
When news broke that an Ocean City Public Works Department beach crew had discovered the body of Texas resident Ashley O'Connor buried in the sand, skeptics immediately doubted the police department's original theory that her death was accidental. Of particular note was the report said that O'Connor was found buried with just her wrist sticking above the sand.
Police, however, are sticking with their original theory and believe that Ashley O'Connor died when the hole she was in accidentally collapsed in on her.
The local medical examiner has concluded that the 30-year-old woman died from asphyxia due to suffocation. She was buried alive. Because there was no evidence of foul play, police suspect the weight of the sand is what killed her and that she was buried unintentionally. While the discovery did not deter beachgoers that day, many have questioned whether Ocean City is safe for their families. This is a concern that the Ocean City Police Department has gone out of its way to refute.
"At this time, we don’t think there were any suspicious circumstances surrounding this incident,"Lindsay Richard of the Ocean City Police Department said in a statement. "So no, I don't believe there’s any reason for the public to be nervous about being on the beach at night."
On paper, Ocean City beach rules prohibits beachgoers from digging holes that are "deeper than knee height of the smallest person around." However, these beach rules are not always followed. For that reason, beach officials are on the lookout for deep holes during the day. At night, though, there is no one on duty to enforce the Ocean City's beach hole policy. The city admits that people sometimes dig holes on the beach under the cover of darkness. With this latest announcement from the police, many are encouraging Ocean City to ban digging holes on public beaches all together.
It is possible that Ashley O'Connor may have stumbled into one of these holes after she became separated from her parents at around 2 a.m. in the morning. It was not until 6:30 a.m. that a passersby noticed the woman's body and notified beach crews and police.
It remains unclear how Ashley O'Connor wound up in the hole or what caused her to be buried alive under the sand. Police are actively investigating the theory that she fell asleep or unconscious in the hole and could have been buried by equipment used by the beach cleaning crew.
While they do believe her death was accidental, Ocean City Police are encouraging anyone with information useful to the investigation to call 410-723-6604. If you have any information about this tragedy, please be sure to contact investigators.
What about you? Does this incident change any of your plans to use the beach this year? Let us know in the comments below.