Texas has many things, but it's a long way to either ocean.
So it seems she went for a late-night walk on the beach, and her parents went on back to their rooms, expecting Ashley back from her walk very soon.
What no one knew was that someone had dug a five-foot-deep hole in the sand for whatever silly purpose, and failed to fill it in before leaving the beach.
|OC Police investigating|
So, in the dark, Ms O'Connor fell into the hole, and was pronounced dead in the morning, dead from accidental asphyxiation.
I had a great-aunt who cautioned against children digging in the sand, for fear that they would be swallowed alive by the sand. Turns out her fear was based somewhat on fact.
Stephen Van Ryswick, chief of the Coastal and Environmental Geology Program at the Maryland Geological Survey, told the Salisbury Daily Times that a hole dug on a sandy beach is different from a hole dug in dirt; they are more prone to caving in because of their "low angle of repose."
It's odd for me to write about this in a blog called Castles Made of Sand, but the point of the Jimi Hendrix song of that name is all about the transience of our constructs: real and otherwise. "The wise man builds his house upon a rock" for stability, in the words of a song I remember from Vacation Bible School. Sand structures give way, and when Ms O'Connor fell into the hole that someone built out of play, it seems that sand trapped her, took away her air, and doomed her to that one last walk on the beach.
What was sad was the preponderance of ill-informed rumors about her death. O'Connor's autopsy came back clear of drug or alcohol, but people were just sure they "knew" she was impaired and passed out on the beach.
Whenever people ask me why I prefer reading non-fiction to novels, I say it's because there are billions of facts out there that I don't know yet, and I love facts.
I'm just like anyone else in making bad assumptions and paying more attention to rumors that I should. This whole episode has had the salutary consequence of teaching us that holes in the sand are not safe at all, and anyone fooling around on the beach with one should be sure to fill it in before leaving for Thrasher's.
And oh - that same great aunt insisted that something be plugged into every electric outlet in her house, otherwise electricity would leak out all over the floor. So there it is. Some facts are not as factual as others.