EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) - Remembering the lives of two Eugene high school students while hoping to prevent another tragedy, a new one-of-a-kind safety marker will be dedicated on the Oregon Coast this weekend.
The new safety marker honors South Eugene High School students Connor Ausland and Jack Harnsongkram who died in February 2011 after being pulled into the ocean by a sneaker wave.
The monument sits at Smelt Sands State Park in Yachats, roughly 100 meters away from the rocky outcrop where Ausland and Harnsongkram were hit by the water.
“We thought ‘we don't want this to ever happen again, what could we do?’ and that was sort of the genesis of the marker,” said Helen Beardsworth, one of the organizers with the Coastal Safety Marker group.
The marker is made out of six basalt rock columns. Each rock represents one of the six students who were there when the wave struck. A metal wave is mounted on one of the rocks at the same height of the wave that hit the teens.
A message on the marker reminds people that the ocean is powerful, to know the tide levels and to face the ocean at all times.
The marker was completed in January. Beardsworth and dozens of others contributed to the all-volunteer project over the last year and a half. Volunteers raised about $20,000 completely through private donations in order to finish the project. It was also approved by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Lincoln County.
"I am convinced that this will make a difference. It will make people . . . pause to look at it and enjoy it and I am thinking that that story might make somebody, a teenager think, '. . . it could happen to me. You know, it happened to these two strong young men.'”
Two starfish on the front of the metal monument are meant to represent the lives of Connor and Jack. A Eugene artist, Ellen Tykesen, designed the piece.
The marker will be dedicated on Saturday, March 9 at the Adobe Resort in Yachats. The event starts at 11 AM. It is free and open to the public.
In the future, the Coastal Safety Marker group hopes to continue with more projects to help educate people about sneaker waves.