“Two people buried in the sand,” a first responder says over the radio while given the location of the disaster at Ocean Beach in Toms River on New Jersey’s eastern coast. It happened Tuesday around 4 p.m.
Despite first responders’ efforts, Levi Caverly, 18, died in the collapse of the 10-foot hole. His sister was saved in the hours-long rescue, in which a machine was used to remove the sand along with rescuers digging on their stomachs.
“We have one still buried up to the chest. Another one is below the sand,” a responder says amid the rescue. “One is completely submerged under the sand, probably approximately 10 feet.”
The audio continues, “Front end loader is arriving, and we have the second victim’s head above the sand… will administer oxygen.”
A short time later a responder can be heard saying, “18-year-old male…history of heart… head is just above the sand now… no breathing.”
Tom River Fire District 1 Administrator Brian Kubiel said the rescuers had to be careful with heavy equipment because any vibrations could refill the hole. “The only thing we could use heavy equipment for was to move the sand away from the hole,” he said, according to the New York Post. “We had to resort to our tech rescue team using shoring and other means, and hand dig the victims out. They were all racing against the rising tide.”
The 17-year-old, whose name has not been reported, was pulled from the hole alive, while crews did not retrieve Caverly’s body from the sand until nearly two hours after the rescue started.
The fire district’s Commissioner Len Minkler called the effort “monumental.”
“It was just a heartbreaking situation. We could see one victim and we couldn’t see the other, and we had to find that one, and it took a while,” he said, according to the Post.
The family had been visiting from Maine, police said.
“We had lots of people trying to help, and we’re very grateful for that,” Levi’s mother, Angela Caverly told NJ.com Wednesday. “We know he’s with Jesus and smiling down on us.”
She said Levi was teaching himself computer coding back at home. “He loved music and was playing drums in a praise band at our church. We did home school and (2021) was his last year.”
She told the outlet her daughter is “physically” OK after the accident and is helping her parents drive home.
Several fire companies, police and lifeguards participated in the rescue.