May 9, 2011 -- To Austrian national swim team member Jakub Maly, it seemed like a good idea at the time: spend the day on Pompano Beach in Florida digging a huge pit, and then jump into it.
It turns out that sand pits 7-feet deep and 6-feet wide -- big enough to gobble up a Volkswagen -- are not that stable. The pit collapsed on the 19-year-old, covering him entirely. Friends scrambled toward him, frantically trying to uncover his head.
"When the sand was over my head, I thought, "Boy, this is going to be hard,'" he said. "I couldn't move. I was standing inside just waiting for help."
They managed to get Maly's head above sand, and called for help. But Maly had done such a thorough job excavating the hole that it took a team of 60 rescuers two hours to extract him.
"It was the perfect hole, until he decided to jump into if for fun. Then the walls caved in on him," said Sandra King of Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.
Rescuers had to buttress the collapsing sand by building makeshift walls in the pit. "I started breathing, just to get enough oxygen," Maly said. "I just thought, 'Oh my God, what do I have to do now?'"
Death eventually crossed his mind. "Maybe after the first hour or so," the Austrian said.
King said Maly was in danger of being crushed by the pressure from the sand.
"The breathing was not bad; the breathing was OK," Maly said. "Later, I get an oxygen mask and breathing was OK. But I didn't feel my legs. I was sitting in the seated position like that, and I didn't feel my legs."
Fellow swimmer Sebastian Stoss said, "We tried to get the people away ... because they were all trying to take pictures because they thought it was interesting; they moved closer and closer and put more sand into there.
"At the moment we were digging I didn't think of anything. I just tried to get his head free so he could breathe. I realized how scary it was afterwards." he said. "I didn't have any time to think about that."
He was freed long after dark and carted off to a hospital and released in less time than it took rescuers to dig him out of his hole. The swimmer is fit and flew with the rest of his team back to Austria.