Officials Say Sinkhole Swallowed Teen Who Died at Toms River Beach Caused by Unstable Sand

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TOMS RIVER, NJ – Toms River officials on Wednesday cited unstable sand and sinkholes along the Jersey Shore might have contributed to the death of a teenager killed this week in the Ocean Beach section of Toms River.

Levy Caverley, 18, of Maine died when a hole he and his sister dug with frisbees collapsed around them, entrapping them both. His sister was dug out and rescued by first responders, but officials are now saying Levy was found dead several feet below her.

While police did not say how big the hole the siblings dug on their own was, Toms River Councilman Kevin Geoghegan, who also operates the for-profit Silverton First Aid Department suspects he was swallowed by a sinkhole.

Geoghegan said the boy was five or six feet down and that authorities at this time believe a sinkhole opened beneath the two teens.

Sinkholes, officials say can occur at the Jersey Shore after strong storms pound the coast and erode beaches. One such storm hit the area last weekend that has forced the closure of some sections of nearby Ortley Beach until after Memorial Day, township officials reported this week.

“It explains how it got so deep so quick,” Geoghegan said.

“Stay away from the water line as much as possible. The sand is like sugar,” said Ocean Beach Fire Chief Drew Calvo, in a prepared release. “It’s so unstable, with all these storms we’ve had recently. Mother Nature takes the sand out and brings it back in.” 

Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill also said Jersey Shore beaches are unstable after beach replenishment work and that sand on the beaches has not fully settled and visitors to the beach this year should not dig deep holes because of unstable sand due to storms and beach replenishment projects.

“With all of the storms and beach replenishments we’ve had, beach sand is not compact.  Some call it “sugar sand.”  Do not dig more than knee-deep.  Doing so puts yourself and others at risk,” Hill said.

A Mother’s Day nor’easter caused major erosion along the northern barrier island of the Barnegat Bay, in some places leaving cliffs along the sand dunes as high as six feet tall. While some portions of Ortley Beach have been closed for the start of the summer, officials are expecting at least 75% of the beach to be usable, albeit much smaller by Memorial Day.

Edited on 5/19/22 to include OBFD Chief Calvo statement.