New coastal marker both memorial and safety warning

YACHATS, Ore. - The students involved in the 2011 Mr. Axeman fundraising pageant at South Eugene High Schools had gathered on the Oregon Coast for a retreat.

As the young men stood above the crashing surf just before 1 p.m., a sneaker wave swept over them.

In a moment, 18-year-old Connor Ausland and 17-year-old Jack Harnsongkram were gone.

The community mourned the loss, with students at high schools across Eugene donning South's signature purple in solidarity.

Fellow students banded together to create a memorial garden at the school in their memory.

And family and friends also longed to prevent another such tragedy on the Oregon Coast.

They noted that while the parking lot at Smelt Sands State Park features signs warning of the danger, no such warning is visible along the coastline accessible from adjacent resorts, homes and beaches.

On Saturday, organizers plan a formal dedication ceremony for a coastal safety marker built with private donations.

Inspired by the lives of Jack and Connor, the marker will honor all who have lost their lives in the ocean and those who miss them.

Speakers at the 11 a.m. event at the Adobe Resort, 1555 U.S. 101 Yachats, Oregon, include Curt Wilson, safety marker committee member; and Ellen Tykeson, the sculptor. The parents of Harnsongkram and Ausland are expected to attend along with local officials, classmates and community members from both Eugene and coastal communities.

A brief video emphasizing coastal safety will also be shown, followed by an open house from noon to 2 p.m. in the Pacific Room at the resort.