Family warns of dune dangers after boy buried

Ottawa County

PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Holland family who scrambled to free their son after a sand dune collapsed on top of him urged others to be careful.

It happened a few weeks ago at Tunnel Park near Holland. With the beach packed, 7-year-old Shepherd Banner and his family had to set up against a dune.

“We were digging at the dune and then one of my friends was putting sand in our hole and I was trying to dig it out and then the dune just collapsed on my back,” Shepherd recounted to 24 Hour News 8 Saturday.

In seconds, several cubic feet of sand were covering his entire body.

“I don’t know if I had my eyes open or if I had my eyes shut,” he described. “It was very dark.”

“There were four in my group who were frantically digging and I then was screaming for help,” his mother Susanna Banner said. “It was horrifying … I knew he has minutes to breathe. I don’t know how many minutes, but just it will only take minutes for him to suffocate.”

It took several minutes to dig Shepherd free.

“I was just like, ‘They’re going to get me out,'” he remembered thinking.

“It felt like a half an hour,” his mother said. “It felt like decades because we could not find him.”

Eventually, they pulled Shepherd out of the sand uninjured.

Banner said she’s always cautious at the beach, but didn’t think to worry about the dune.

“I constantly scan the water, I count kids, I watch other people’s kids,” she said. “I thought the danger was out there (in the lake) and would not have fathomed that behind me was something as hazardous.”

The county has since put warning signs up to prevent the same thing from happening to another child.

“It’s not dangerous being near the dunes but we have to be cautious, just as we’re cautious with the water,” Banner said.

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