A lawsuit surrounding the death of a woman who was accidentally buried alive on a Maryland beach by a tractor has been dismissed from federal court.
The Daily Times reports that attorneys representing Ocean City and the victim's mother filed a joint motion Tuesday stipulating the dismissal of the claims with prejudice. It doesn’t say whether there was a settlement, but documents filed earlier this year stated both parties had made “substantial progress toward resolution” and were hopeful the matter could be resolved soon.
In the lawsuit filed in 2019, Gayla Lutyk and her attorney say town workers' negligence caused her daughter, 30-year-old Ashley O’Connor, to be trapped in the sand in 2017. The lawsuit alleged that workers didn’t investigate whether anyone was on the beach before twice driving a tractor over the Plano, Texas, woman as it covered holes. The suit sought $1 million in damages.
Ocean City officials had stated that a medical examiner ruled O’Connor’s death accidental, caused by asphyxia due to suffocation.
Edward Brown, attorney for Lutyk, declined to discuss the case when contacted Tuesday. Bruce Bright, who represented Ocean City, couldn’t be reached for a comment.
O’Connor was visiting Ocean City with her family when she walked onto the beach at about 2 a.m. Someone spotted an arm above the sand at about 6:30 a.m. and called police.
O'Connor was a newlywed who had recently started a business with her wife, according to a fundraising page created to help with her wife's expenses.
It’s not as uncommon as you might think for people to die of suffocation after holes dug into sand collapse, Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Bradley Maron told News4 after the accident.
From 1997 to 2007, Maron documented 52 instances in which people became buried in holes in sand that collapsed. In 31 of these cases, the victims died. Since 2007, the medical professor said he has heard of an additional 25 instances, from reading media reports and speaking with victims.
If you're buried in sand, you have as little as three minutes to escape before suffering permanent brain damage.
If you witness a sand collapse, call 911. But first-responders often can't act quickly enough. Removing the sand from around a person without injuring the person is a delicate task.