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Lawsuits & Litigation

Lawsuit Over Fatal 2017 Sand Cave-in Death in Ocean City Nears Settlement

— March 25, 2021

The family of Ashley O’Connor is awaiting a resolution to a lawsuit filed in the aftermath of her tragic death.

Back in 2017, a Texas woman, Ashley O’Connor, passed away after she became buried and trapped in the sand at a beach in Ocean City. Fortunately for O’Connor’s family, a resolution may be coming soon to the $1 million lawsuit that was filed over her tragic passing. Earlier this week, Gayla Lutyk, O’Connor’s mother, along with the town of Ocean City “filed a joint motion Monday asking the judge to extend certain deadlines in the lawsuit.

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

The court filings state:

“Without disclosing substance, the parties have made substantial progress toward resolution and are optimistic that the matter will be soon resolved.”

Both parties in the suit are seeking a 90-day extension to the deadlines for disclosure, something that has already been done before. This time, both parties are seeking an extension in order to finalize the negotiations. 

What happened, though? How did O’Connor become trapped? Well, according to the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, O’Connor died of asphyxia when she became “buried in the sand near Second Street in the early morning of July 31, 2017.” Her body was eventually “found 1.5 feet below the surface in a 3.5-foot deep hole,” according to police reports. According to the lawsuit, O’Connor’s body was found by beachgoers a few hours after she became separated from her family.

Her family filed a lawsuit against Ocean City, claiming it “exhibited gross negligence that led to O’Connor’s death.” To make matters worse, the family alleged that “Ocean City’s beach tractors ran over her, causing her to be covered over with sand and suffocate…The tractors are used to clear trash and create a smooth finish.” Court filings further state:

“During the night of July 31, 2017, (Ocean City)’s agents failed to see what was and/or should have been plainly visible, namely the decedent Ashley O’Connor in a hole on the beach.”

Additionally, O’Connor’s mother said Ashley “experienced extreme pain and suffering as a result of this accident and that it all could have been avoided if Ocean City had better trained its employees, inspected the hole before driving over it with the sweeper, and warned visitors about the sweeper ahead of time.”

However, some of the witnesses who were at the beach that day said there was no way for the driver of the sweeper to know Ashley was in the sand. One witness, Suellen Wagner, said, “I feel bad for the family, however, I don’t feel that it was Ocean City’s responsibility.” She added, “That poor beach sweeper has to live with that for the rest of their life. It was not their fault and they shouldn’t have to feel any guilt and my thoughts and prayers go out to them and their family.”


In Ocean City sand cave-in death, lawsuit nears possible settlement

Ocean City sued over death of Ashley O’Connor

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