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Devastated parents of teen killed in beach sand collapse speak out

Levi Caverly became trapped in a hole he was digging with his sister.
/ Source: TODAY

The parents of 18-year-old Levi Caverly, who died when a 10-foot hole he and his sister were digging at a New Jersey beach collapsed, are paying tribute to their late son. 

“Levi was himself. He was odd. He was quirky. He was not real concerned with what others thought. He knew Jesus Christ,” Levi’s dad, Todd Caverly, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“He was involved in the worship team at church, and was the drummer in a teen/young adult worship band,” Todd shared, adding that the high school graduate was also a “tech nut and loved to program.”

Levi Caverly's mom wrote on Facebook, "I know it’s really goofy but this was his favorite photo."
Levi Caverly's mom wrote on Facebook, "I know it’s really goofy but this was his favorite photo."Courtesy Todd and Angela Caverly

Levi’s mother, Angela Caverly, said she is also finding comfort in her faith. 

“We know he’s with Jesus and smiling down on us,” Angela told NJ Advance Media

Emergency crews and police worked for hours at the Toms River site to rescue Levi, but he was completely buried and he died at the beach, Angela said. Levi’s 17-year-old sister, who was trapped up to her chest, was treated for minor injuries and is now home in Union, Maine with her family.

“Physically, my daughter is OK,” Angela shared.

Capt. Jonathan A. Rigolo of the Virginia Beach Fire Department urges beachgoers to dig no deeper than the equivalent of knee-deep for the smallest person in the group.

"So if you have a toddler — knee-deep to the toddler, and that's it," Rigolo told TODAY Parents. "That way, if they sit in the hole, their head is still above the sand, their chest is still above the sand and they will continue to maintain an airway even if there's a collapse."

Rigolo noted that wet sand is especially hazardous because when it dries, it becomes granular and is more likely to collapse.

Toms River Mayor Maurice B. "Mo" Hill told TODAY in a statement that he "can't imagine the pain" the Caverly family is experiencing.

“I commend all of our first responders who fought hard to save Levi and were able to rescue his sister," Hill wrote. "I know that they are devastated that they could not rescue Levi. The joy of saving the sister is mixed with heartbreak.”

Hill said that when "lifeguards are present they scan the beach during usual rounds for any digging lower than knee deep," but "tragically, this incident happened off-season when the beach was unprotected by our staff of lifeguards."

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