Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – August 25, 2017

It’s unsettling to accept it will never be known exactly what happened to Ashley O’Connor in Ocean City.

The 30-year-old Plano, Texas woman was discovered on the beach at 6:30 in the morning on July 31. The time of death was found to be between 2 and 3 a.m. and she was discovered around 6:30 a.m.

Did she really just walk out on the beach after drinking, sit in a hole already dug really deep and wide and suffocate when the sand collapsed around her while she was presumably asleep? Or was she asleep when the beach tractors came out overnight and did they come close enough to her to cause the sand to shift and collapse around her? No matter the case, it’s a disturbing tragedy because it was such a preventable accident.

What was learned after this week’s media briefing about the incident was nobody knows for certain what happened on that summer night after she was seen on video walking out to the beach alone. It basically boils down to a common sense theory that’s supported by the evidence, namely the cause of death being asphyxia due to suffocation.

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro’s comments addressed the uncertainty of it all and the investigation’s conclusion that the details of how she died will remain a mystery.

“What we believe is the hole collapsed at some point for reasons unknown,” he said. “How the hole collapsed only she will ever know. It might have collapsed when she entered the hole, or it might have collapsed because of her movements once she was in the hole. We can’t discount the fact there were beach tractors in the area. That equipment is very heavy and causes a lot of vibration. … We had a lot of assistance from the city’s engineering department with the nuances of sand and it doesn’t take much to collapse. There is a good possibility they were working over and around that hole.”

As the city’s officials said in the media briefing this week, it’s just wrenching to imagine the sorrow her family is facing.

Rankings of vacation destinations seem to come out every day during the summer months, but this week’s from a blog by TripAdvisor Rentals was interesting. It was titled, “14 Late-Summer Vacations That Are Absolute Steals If You Book In September.”

The rankings included, from top to bottom, Bethany Beach, Del., Lincoln City, Ore., Pawley’s Island, S.C., Topsail Beach, N.C., Seaside, Ore., Ocean City, Orange Beach, Calif., Port Isabel, Texas, Chelan, Wash., Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Nags Head, N.C., Imperial Beach, Calif., Virginia Beach, Va. and Seattle, Wash.

Included in the individual rankings were blurbs about the destinations as well as the average rental weekly rate in September compared to August. For the local spots, Bethany’s average weekly rate in September was listed as $1,269 compared to $2,003 in August. As for Ocean City, the average September weekly rental rate was found to be $1,400 compared to $1,982 in August. As a comparison, the most expensive place on the list turned out to be Martha’s Vineyard where the average rental for a week in September came to $2,305 compared to $2,963 in August.

Along with the change.org poll created this week to save Dumser’s, another online effort of local significance tackling a statewide issue has been grabbing headlines across the country.

The Dumser’s effort has more than 9,000 signatures encouraging Ocean City to drop its effort to officially take back ownership of the South Division Street parcel. The 10,000 goal is well within reach. The state flag petition surpassed 40,000 supporters yesterday and will likely reach its 50,000 goal this weekend.

It’s unclear to me how the Maryland flag design came under attack, but it’s most likely in response to the Charlottesville, Va. situation and the efforts of some officials to remove landmarks with links to confederate leaders. A Baltimore Sun article on Monday referred a tweet from an activist as the source of the flag change call.

According to the petition effort, “during the Civil War, troops from Maryland flew both coats of arms; those supporting the Union flew the Calvert arms, while those supporting the Confederacy flew the Crossland arms. Our current flag was first flown in 1880 as a symbol of unity and reconciliation between the two factions.” The petition stands as support to discourage state officials from remotely considering calls to change the flag. “We, the undersigned, urge our leaders to reject radicals who want to force us to change our state flag…”

Gov. Larry Hogan chimed in with support of the flag this week, as expected.

“Not only is the Maryland state flag a symbol of unity and pride, but it is also the most beautiful and most recognized state flag in America,” Hogan posted on Facebook yesterday. “You can rest assured that it will never be changed as long as I’m governor.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.