My son was buried alive!

In the blink of an eye, Matt’s whole world was turned upside down when his son Riley was buried in quicksand.
Emergency services worked for five hours
Emergency services worked for five hours

Here, Matt, 44, tells the story in his own words.

Unpacking the last of our boxes, my boys Andrew, 11, and Riley, eight, were getting restless.

‘Why don’t we go for a walk around the paddock?’ I smiled.

After living in the city our whole lives, my wife Rosie, 42, and I loved the idea of living somewhere more open and serene. So in September last year, we decided to make the move to our new home in Jandabup.

Surrounded by ve acres of land and not a high-rise in sight, we felt like we were living in paradise.

‘There’s so much room to play’ Riley grinned, running after his big brother.

Before long, they’d befriended all the other kids in the area. Then one weekend, after clearing some land with an excavator, the boys had one of their friends over.

‘You three behave,’ I said, leaving them outside as I went in to grab a drink.

Just minutes later, Andrew ran to the house in a panic.

‘Riley’s in the hole!’ he screamed.

I was confused: we hadn’t dug any holes and I hadn’t seen any on the property.

Still, the worried look on Andrew’s face told me Riley was in serious trouble. Rushing out to where they’d been playing, Rosie and I were horrified to find that the boys had used the excavator to dig a huge hole in the ground. Peering over the edge, I found Riley almost three metres below the surface. Stuck in sand up to his knees, I realised my boy was trapped.

Emergency services worked for five hours
Emergency services worked for five hours (Credit: WEST AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPERS LIMITED)

Jumping in to help him right away, I couldn’t get him to budge.

Though I tried my hardest to pull Riley free, his legs had been bent back by the impact of the sand. Now, they were acting like anchors, pinning him under the debris.

No matter how quickly I dug to reach his feet, the sand was closing in faster. Then, out of nowhere, another avalanche of soil and dust came crashing down on top of us, covering Riley’s entire chest. Fretting, I knew it was only a matter of time before the trench collapsed even more. Still, no matter how hard I pulled, I just couldn’t fight the force of the sand.

‘Call the emergency services,’ I urged Rosie.

I just hoped they’d be able to save us in time.

Being airlifted to hospital

Then, when the third wave of rubble came crashing down, I closed my eyes to stop dust from seeping in. When they opened, I noticed the sand had left me trapped from the waist down.

Peering across at Riley, he was nowhere to be seen. That’s when I realised my boy had been buried alive. Digging frantically to clear a path to his mouth, I was desperate to see if Riley was breathing.

Though I could hear his muffled cries, I didn’t know how much time he had left.

‘Hang on, buddy’ I called. ‘I’m coming for you.’

After more than a minute of burrowing through the sand, I was finally able to find Riley’s face.

‘Daddy, I don’t want to die,’ he sobbed over and over.

Exhausted, I felt completely helpless. Thankfully, around 10 minutes later, emergency crews arrived and began the quest to free Riley.

Me, Riley and Rosie –wetrynotto think about what could’ve happened
Me, Riley and Rosie –wetrynotto think about what could’ve happened (Credit: WEST AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPERS LIMITED)

After attaching an oxygen mask to assist with his breathing, the paramedics provided him with fluids and pain relief.

Then, bucket by bucket, the crew removed as much sand as they could, before shoring up the sides of the trench to stop the walls from collapsing in again. Using old furniture that was lying around the property, they were able to build a staircase to get in and out of the hole.

After almost ve excruciating hours, Dan the reman had freed Riley’s feet.

Lifting him up and out of the trench, my boy was finally free. 

Rushing out after him, I wrapped my arms around his frail body.

‘You’re okay,’ I soothed.

Then, he was airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital for a check-up.

Matt, Riley and Rosie

By the time he was in the air, he was back to his usual bubbly self, even requesting a photo on board the helicopter. Thankfully, once he arrived at hospital, there were no signs of injury and he was given the all-clear to go home that night.

‘Now I don’t have to go to school tomorrow,’ he grinned. Incredibly, the next day we were able to reunite with the emergency crew who’d helped rescue Riley.

‘He wouldn’t be here without your help,’ I said gratefully to each of them.

I’m sharing my story to raise awareness of how important it is to keep a watchful eye on your kids. It only takes the blink of an eye for life to change forever.

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!


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