This weekend more than 200 people turned out in the small town of Yachats to remind people that the ocean can be both beautiful and treacherous. They came to a dedication ceremony for a new safety marker stands near where two teens died from a powerful sneaker wave.
At Smelt Sands State Park in Yachats, six basalt columns stand at the edge of the ocean. Three of them support a stainless steel sculpture of an ocean wave breaking with bubbling foam.
A plaque on the sculpture tells the story of Jack Harnsongkram and Connor Ausland. The teens from South Eugene High School came with friends to the coast two winters ago.
At high tide, a sudden wave only about thigh high knocked the boys off the rocks and into a deep chasm. Their friends could not get them out. The boys drowned within three minutes.
Jack’s mother, Sarah Harnsongkram, made it her mission to have this safety marker installed where the boys perished.
She explained, “I think the marker could save lives because a personal story makes it real. It is real. We really just wanted something that said it in so many words. The danger is real. It could happen to anyone.”
The state calls March Beach Safety Month. With spring break approaching, Oregon State Parks says powerful seas and eager visitors have historically added up to more rescues and deaths than any other time of year.
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