(Aug. 2, 2019) Ashley O’Connor, 30, of Plano, Texas, died from asphyxiation after she was buried in sand on a beach near Second Street just short of three years ago, on July 31, 2017.
On Wednesday, July 24, her family filed a lawsuit against the Town of Ocean City, accusing it of being responsible for O’Connor’s death.
“Ashley O’Connor’s death was due to the negligence, gross negligence, reckless and/or wanton and willful conduct of the Defendant Ocean City, Maryland, and its agents, servants and employees,” said the suit filed in federal district court in Baltimore. The suit seeks $1 million in damages.
O’Connor and her parents were in Ocean City that day after attending a wedding of a family member.
O’Connor had recently gotten married herself, and was planning to start a painting business with her wife, social media posts said.
According to previous reports, O’Connor’s parents had last seen her walking on the beach around 2 a.m. When she did not return the next morning, her parents filed a missing persons report, but by then O’Connor’s body had already been discovered.
A man, walking on the beach, spotted O’Connor’s forearm and a bit of her hair sticking out from the sand.
The hole O’Connor was found in was about 3.5 feet deep and six feet wide. She was found in a seated position, almost 1.5 feet under the sand.
The Ocean City Police Department deemed her death an accident, although it is still unknown how O’Connor was buried.
The family claims in the lawsuit that Ocean City beach sweepers, which clean the sand nightly starting at 11 p.m., were responsible for her death.
“Defendant was aware of or is charged with knowledge of the danger, but still breached these duties, including entrapping Ashley O’Connor, running over Ashley O’Connor not once, but also a second time, causing her injuries, pain, anguish, fear suffering and horrific death …” the lawsuit says.
Detectives at the time were not able to determine what caused the sand to collapse, but the beach sweepers were taken into consideration.
OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said, in a press briefing in August 2017, that multiple witness accounts, hours of videography and physical evidence showed no sign of foul play in the death of O’Connor.
However, according to previous reports, O’Connor’s blood alcohol content had been beyond .08, which is the legal limit of driving a vehicle.
Ocean City Beach Patrol frequently warns beach goers about the dangers of digging holes in the sand.
Sand is an incredibly loose material, and it easily caves in. This makes digging someone out of the sand very tricky, as the digger could end up exasperating the problem and fill the hole with even more sand.
OC Communications Manager Jessica Waters said she could not comment on the allegations, as the lawsuit is currently in litigation.
“What happened on July 31, 2017 is one of the most tragic occurrences our community has ever experienced,” Waters said. “We continue to express our deepest condolences and extend our prayers to the family and friends of Ashley O’Conner.”