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SAN MATEO, Calif. — Friends and family of a recent college graduate who died while building a 10-foot deep sand tunnel at a San Francisco-area beach mourned his death Wednesday.

On a Facebook page entitled "Remembering Adam Jay Pye," users posted pictures of a smiling, confident young man and reminisced about eating pizza, going to Disneyland, searching for college housing — the stuff of everyday life.

Pye, age 26, died late Monday near Half Moon Bay after another ordinary outing — a trip to the beach with friends — ended in a frantic and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to rescue him from catastrophe.

He and friends had been building deep diagonal holes in the sand. As the afternoon waned, his friends exited a nearby one, while he stood in another. Then the sand started caving him around him. About 30 people, including Pye's friends and bystanders, desperately dug with their hands, buckets and other improvised tools to expose his head.

They were able to free his head in about five minutes, just as firefighters arrived at the scene, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Jonathan Cox said.

But it took rescuers about 35 minutes to rescue him from the shifting sand. They tried to revive him, but he died at the scene.

Pye, of the San Francisco suburb of San Lorenzo, had gone to Half Moon Bay with friends days before he was due to take a trip to New York, his mother told the San Francisco Chronicle.

He had graduated from Cal State East Bay with a degree in communications. He had been working for UPS at the Oakland Airport since he was 18 and was due to start a job in Southern California.

His family is accepting donations on the youcaring.com free fundraising website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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