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Lawsuit Over Fatal 2017 Sand Cave-in Death in Ocean City Nears Settlement

A resolution might be coming soon to the $1 million lawsuit surrounding the 2017 death of a Texas woman in Ocean City. Ashley O’Connor’s mother, Gayla Lutyk, and the town of Ocean City filed a joint motion Monday asking the judge to extend certain deadlines in the lawsuit.

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

“Without disclosing substance, the parties have made substantial progress toward resolution and are optimistic that the matter will be soon resolved,” according to court filings.

Both parties are seeking a 90-day extension to the current deadlines for disclosure, according to court filings. Deadlines in the lawsuit have been extended before, which the parties say has helped limit legal costs and facilitate negotiations.

The lawsuit stems from the death of O’Connor, who died of asphyxia after being buried in the sand near Second Street in the early morning  of July 31, 2017. Her body was found 1.5 feet below the surface in a 3.5-foot deep hole, police said in 2017.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in 2019, blames Ocean City for the death, stating the town exhibited “gross negligence” that led to O’Connor’s death.

O’Connor’s family claimed in the lawsuit that Ocean City’s beach tractors ran over her, causing her to be covered over with sand and suffocate. The tractors are used to clear trash and create a smooth finish.

“During the night of July 31, 2017, (Ocean City)’s agents failed to see what was and/or should have been plainly visible, namely the decedent Ashley O’Connor in a hole on the beach,” according to court filings.

Ocean City denied the allegations, according court filings.

Lawyers for both sides were contacted Friday via phone and email but didn’t reply to requests for comment.

The body of 30-year-old O’Connor, of Plano, Texas, was discovered by beachgoers on the morning of July 31. She was vacationing in Ocean City with her family and its believed she separated from them at about 2 a.m., a few hours before she was found.



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