Earth swallows woman in feet of quicksand during Maine beach walk: 'I just fell in'

"We were just talking about dinner, and the bottom fell out," Jamie Acord told FOX Weather. "In the moment, I wasn't really sure what was happening. I just didn't want to be there."

PHIPPSBURG, Maine – The natural world's stunning beauty often comes hand in hand with certain risks, as Jamie Acord recently discovered firsthand. 

The Poland, Maine, woman found herself engulfed in waist-deep quicksand as thick and heavy as cement on June 1 while visiting a popular New England state park beach.

Acord and her husband had finally seized the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg until the unthinkable happened.

As the couple took a leisurely walk along the shoreline, they would pick up occasional trash while feeling the cool water beneath their feet.

"We were just talking about dinner, and the bottom fell out," she recalled.

As he looked behind, Acord's husband felt confused, wondering where his wife's legs had gone. At the same time, she pondered the same perplexing question, trying to make sense of the situation.

Acord found herself unable to feel the ground beneath her.

As she struggled to free herself, sinking deeper into the damp sand with each attempt to move, she reached out to her husband for help. In a desperate attempt to escape the quicksand, she clung to his arm, and together, they managed to pull her out of the treacherous situation, finally finding safety on firmer ground.

"I had no warning," Acord recalled. "The sand wasn't sucking around my feet at all. It was like walking on wet beach sand, and then I just fell in."

In just a few seconds, she descends from the soles of her feet to approximately 2.5 feet beneath the ground.

"In the moment, I wasn't really sure what was happening," she told FOX Weather. "I just didn't want to be there."


After the frightening experience, they looked behind them and wondered what had just occurred. There was no sign of a huge hole, almost as if questioning reality from a nightmare.

She sustained minor scrapes on her foot and leg. It's unclear whether they occurred when she fell in or when her husband pulled her out, but they weren't too serious, Acord said.

Soaked to her hips and covered in muddy sand, Acord and her husband walked to a nearby bathhouse. On the way, they were approached by a lifeguard and park ranger who inquired about their well-being as the couple shared the anxiety of their recent beach walk.

It was the first report they had heard of someone encountering quicksand that reached higher than their feet.

So what do you ever do in a situation like this if you are alone, and the sand begins to take you deeper?

"Lean back and wiggle," Acord learned after the fact. "If I'm sucked in the sand again, I need to lean back, lean forward and wiggle."


According to experts, the instructions for falling through a hole in the ice are essentially the same – you should lay out on the ice and wiggle and shimmy yourself.

"You make yourself bigger," Acord adds.

She is now warning others to be aware of their surroundings and be aware of where they're going and what could happen.

Acord said she and her husband would keep going back to the beach multiple times throughout the year – even in the winter.

"They did say it probably won't likely happen in the same spot," she said.

Visitors at Popham Beach are now encouraged to chat with the state park staff for the latest updates on area conditions and additional safety tips before their visit – something especially helpful if guests are not familiar with the area or if conditions have recently changed.

As for Acord, she will now bring extra clothes to the beach for a quick change if she encounters a similar situation.

"And if it happens again," she added, "then I'll at least be aware."


Navigating quicksand in an emergency

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry offers the following tips to help you stay safe if you ever find yourself stuck in soft sand.

  1. Stay calm – Panicking can make the situation worse. Take a deep breath and assess your surroundings. 
  2. Ditch extra weight – If carrying a backpack or heavy gear, set it aside to lighten your load. 
  3. Lean back – Distribute your weight more evenly by leaning back slightly. This technique helps prevent further sinking. 
  4. Move slowly – Quick, jerky movements can cause you to sink deeper. Move your legs slowly and deliberately. 
  5. Crawl to safety – If standing up isn't an option, crawl on your hands and knees to distribute your weight more evenly and reach firmer ground.