Students, coach remember teens killed by wave at coast

Students, coach remember teens killed by wave at coast »Play Video
Connor Gregory Ausland (top) and Jack Harnsongkram.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A sudden wave took the lives of two South Eugene High School students on the Oregon Coast Saturday afternoon as they were taking part in a retreat for a charity event.

The body of 18-year-old Connor Gregory Ausland was recovered on Saturday and on Sunday morning authorities recovered the body of 17-year-old Jack Harnsongkram after a local citizen spotted his body on the rocks. Both were finalists for the Mr. Axeman Pageant which raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Adult chaperones and other students were with them but no one could save the two young men.

The powerful wave swept the teenagers from rocks at Smelt Sands State Park on the north end Yachats in Lincoln County while they were playing catch.

“There’s no reason why this should have happened. It’s unfair,” said Jack Carroll, a South Eugene High School student and a friend of both victims. “Pretty much both of them, all they ever did was make people smile.”

Carroll saw Ausland’s final basketball game on Friday night and recalled his nickname “Whitewater.” Ausland was called that because he was so smooth with three-pointers.

“On Friday, I was like, ‘Whitewater, coming in off the bench!’ And he just gave this big smile to the whole crowd. That was the last thing I saw him do.”

On Sunday, South Eugene High School’s basketball coach Dave Hancock brought the team together, saying it is what Ausland would want.

“He exemplified what South Eugene’s teams are about in basketball and that is play for each other and not play for yourself,” Hancock said.

Harnsongkram was an outdoor lover and is remembered for his easy smile and his natural leadership.

“Basically, all he ever did was spread light and he was just a great guy and great leader,” Carroll said.

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard hope others will remember the ocean is unpredictable and one sneaker wave can cut off a lifetime of possibilities.

Investigators said this is similar to what happened to a Portland couple at the Yaquina Bay jetty in Newport last November. Michael and Kathryn Myers drowned after a sneaker wave pulled them into the ocean while celebrating their wedding anniversary.