A 26-year-old San Lorenzo man died on Monday, July 21, after being buried alive by a sand tunnel he was building at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay.

As the San Jose Mercury News reports, Adam Jay Pye had spent the afternoon with family and friends at a beachside campground, digging large, diagonal holes in the sand and trying to connect them to make a tunnel. Pye was standing in one of the 10-foot-deep holes — nearly twice his height — when the sand collapsed on him at about 5:30 p.m.

Dozens of beachgoers rushed to Pye’s rescue, according to the Associated Press, digging him out with hands and buckets. Within five minutes, they were able to free his head, but he was unconscious. Firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and pulled him out of the sand within 35 minutes, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death was determined as "suffocation,” due to sand hole entrapment.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Jonathan Cox said it was unclear what caused the hole to collapse and that no water had reached that point in the sand.

"Sand is an extremely difficult substance to rescue anyone out of, especially when they're completely buried in it," Cox told the Merc. "It took a really concerted effort to pull the sand back, and there was a really overwhelming number of people — in a good way — who were digging to get him out." He added that sand can be as unpredictable as the tides and to avoid digging holes too deep.

Pye’s friends have set up a Facebook page, Remembering Adam Jay Pye, and a fund to cover his funeral costs.

[San Jose Mercury News]
[Associated Press]