Mother’s Instinct Saves Son in Sand

Times Staff Writer

When the woman turned to look back at the beach, both her son and the hole he had been digging were gone.

“I started asking people, Have you seen my son? Have you seen my son?” Wendy Scott said. “Everybody just said, ‘Oh no, he’s back in the water.’ My other son just kept playing, but I knew.”

Scott, of Riverside, started to dig frantically where 13-year-old Dylan had been burrowing Sunday afternoon on the beach near 8th Street on Balboa Peninsula. Using a bucket, he had dug about 4 feet deep by the time his mother briefly left him to join her 10-year-old son, Tyler, in the water.

“At first no one was going to help,” she said. “But then I hit something. It was his head. He was totally buried alive.”


She tried to grab hold of his blond hair, but it was too short to get a grip.

Onlookers rushed to help, finally realizing that the hole had collapsed on him. But as soon as they pulled the sand away from the boy, it would fall back. Nearly 30 people gathered to help, but their weight caused even more sand to cover him. Dylan’s brother was screaming desperately.

“I thought he was dead,” his mother said. “He was totally blue.”

Along with lifeguards, paramedics with the Newport Beach Fire Department arrived and fastened an oxygen mask to the seemingly lifeless boy. But even then the sand continued to cover him, and his mouth and nose were packed with sand.


After making everyone back away, paramedics pulled Dylan completely out of the sand about five minutes after they arrived, said Jennifer Schulz, Fire Department spokeswoman. “We weren’t sure that he was going to make it when we finally got him in the ambulance,” Schulz said.

Doctors at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach were able to revive the boy. The mother said the doctors told her that another two minutes under the sand would have killed him.

By Monday, he was resting back at home in Riverside. His skin was scraped, his body bruised. Worst of all was the sore throat left by all the sand.

“It’s creepy,” the boy said. “I just remember something really heavy fell on me.”


Authorities used the incident to warn against the summer pastime of digging deep holes and tunnels along the coast. Over the years, a number of collapses have killed or seriously injured children in California. In 2000, Laguna Beach passed an ordinance prohibiting digging holes in the beach sand deeper than two feet.

“In the back of my mind, I remembered something about a hole that caved in on a kid,” said Wendy Scott, 41. “And I told him he was going too deep, but he just said, ‘Aw, Mom, you don’t know anything.’ ”


Times researcher John Tyrrell contributed to this report.