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Parents of 7-Year-Old Girl Swallowed by Sand Hole Break Silence About Beach Tragedy: 'It Just Happened So Fast'

"The weight of the sand was too much," Jason Mattingly said on 'Good Morning America' Thursday, remembering the final moments with his late daughter, Sloan Mattingly

<p>Good Morning America/X</p> Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly remember their daughter Sloan during an emotional interview on

Good Morning America/X

Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly remember their daughter Sloan during an emotional interview on 'Good Morning America'

The parents of Sloan Mattingly — the 7-year-old Indiana girl who died after getting trapped in a collapsed sand hole on a Florida beach in February — are speaking out about their tragedy in hopes to save other families from this hidden danger.

Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly sat down for an emotional interview with Good Morning America's Erielle Reshef that aired Thursday, where they remembered their bright and vivacious daughter "as a beam of light [and] joy."

"She just lived life," said Jason of his little girl, who loved unicorns and Taylor Swift. "She would come out in the morning and she would fist-bump right out of bed. She’d always be so happy."

Added Therese: "She wasn’t into like, the big, ‘Take me to Disney.’ She was just like, ‘Come dance with me in the living room.’ So we did."

Related: Family Shares Final Moments of Girl Swallowed by Sand Hole: Brother 'Couldn’t Feel Her Moving Anymore’

<p>GoFundMe</p> Sloan Mattingly

GoFundMe

Sloan Mattingly

Sloan was digging for seashells in the sand with her brother Maddox, 9, during a family vacation to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea on Feb. 20 when the hole opened up, swallowing both of the siblings alive. Therese and Jason were right there and jumped into action, digging to save their children as the grains of sand engulfed them.

Recalled Jason: "It was kind of a blur, and it’s probably maybe my mind protecting myself, but it just happened so fast. In my mind I had her in my hands, but the weight of the sand was too much."

<p>Good Morning America/X</p> Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly remember their daughter Sloan during an emotional interview on 'Good Morning America'

Good Morning America/X

Therese Mattingly and Jason Mattingly remember their daughter Sloan during an emotional interview on 'Good Morning America'

"It didn’t matter that we were literally right there," said Therese. "It was just a hole and then it was nothing. And then it just becomes chaos and horror."

Others on the beach joined in rescue efforts, calling 9-1-1 and helping to find the children in the hole several feet deep. Maddix was pulled out first, while Sloan remained trapped for more than 15 minutes before she was eventually freed. She was unresponsive and transported to a local hospital, where she later died.

Both Therese and Jason told GMA they felt like time stood still as they rushed to find their children.

They shared gratitude to first responders, hospital workers and those on the beach who offered their support. "Everyone tried their hardest but unfortunately, it didn’t work out in our favor," said Jason.

"I’m sorry, I’m so sorry," Therese said, to those fellow beachgoers. "You witnessed our horror."

Related: 911 Call Details Moments After Siblings Were Swallowed by Sand Hole: 'My Daughter's in There'

But the Mattingly family are hopeful that by sharing Sloan's story, it will help prevent other families from similar anguish, especially as other families flock to beaches for the spring break season.

"You go to the beach you think of water safety, and this never ever once crossed my mind," noted Therese. "And of course looking now it’s like, ‘Of course.’ And so that’s where it’s really frustrating."

<p>Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images</p> A memorial for Sloan Mattingly at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A memorial for Sloan Mattingly at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

Experts say any hole dug in the sand should be no deeper than the knee of the shortest person digging it. But that message, or warnings about sinkholes, aren't often posted on beaches — something Therese and Jason hope to see changed.

"And strangers, if you see something that’s dangerous, take the courage and say something," said Jason.

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The town of Lauderdale by the Sea is developing national safety campaign, they told GMA. “We will share it with as many coastal communities as possible. To help prevent another unimaginable tragedy,’ said Mayor Chris Vincent. “We’re also discussing how we monitor our beach, a local Ordinance to ban digging on our beach, and the best way to honor Sloan.”

Good Morning America airs weekdays on ABC beginning at 7 a.m. ET.

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