Debra Pye, holding a photo of her son Adam, could not contain her grief.
"A perfect son, a perfect brother, a perfect friend...a perfect cousin," she told KTVU-TV in Oakland through tears at her family's home in San Leandro, California.
Adam Pye, 26, was killed at a beach off Half Moon Bay in northern California Monday after a giant hole he was digging in the sand collapsed and buried him, according to fire officials.
Pye's parents said their son's trip to the beach with close family friends was meant as rest following his graduation from Cal State East Bay just over a month ago, a major in business communications. They said he'd worked his way through school, logging 12-hour days on the night shift at the Oakland Airport UPS and then going to class during the day.
"That was all he ever did was just school work and finally he graduated to say, 'Mom, finally, now I have some time, I can rest,'" Debra Pye added to KTVU.
Pye's parents said their son was helping friends dig a tunnel about 10-feet deep when it collapsed about 5:30 p.m.
"The girls came out of their tunnel, his tunnel caved in and they turned around and said, 'Where's Adam, where's Adam?'" the victim's father, Kevin Pye, told KTVU.
The sand had trapped Pye; his father said the girls tried to save him, holding up his head which was briefly exposed, before more sand gave way, covering him completely.
A call went out for help and many responded. "There were dozens, dozens of people from the beach, men, women and children pulling sand out of this hole," George Fry, a camper from Utah who also rushed to help dig with his hands, told KTVU.
The following news report includes a clip of people trying to dig Pye out of the hole:
When responding fire crews arrived at Francis State Beach they found a man in his 20s “completely covered by sand,” authorities told KNTV-TV in San Jose.
"They were just starting to get to his head when our first crews got there," Fire Captain Jonathan Cox, who was at the scene, told KTVU.
Cox told KTVU that Pye was unconscious when paramedics cleared sand away from his head and opened his airway. After 35 minutes of digging, crews managed to pull him out. They performed CPR but were not able to revive him. He was pronounced dead at the scene, KNTV added.
“It is one of those situations that can go from having a good time on the beach with friends and family to extremely dangerous and critical within seconds,” Cox told KNTV.