‘Sneaker waves’ blamed as family swept away trying to save dog


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The signs posted along Big Lagoon Beach north of Eureka warn of ‘sneaker waves’ -- 10-foot breakers that churn the water like a washing machine.

Authorities say that’s what swept three members of an Arcata family into the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, killing a mother and father and swallowing up their 16-year-old son.


Howard Kuljian, a 54-year-old printing company executive and a forestry expert, tossed a stick that took the dog down to the water’s edge, and in an instant, authorities said, a wave swallowed the pet, setting off a nightmarish scramble.

“Everything kind of snowballed from there,” Coast Guard Lt. Bernie Garrigan told the Associated Press.

Kuljian’s 16-year-old son, Gregory, ran to save the dog, only to be captured by the surging surf himself. Howard Kuljian followed, and then his wife, Mary Scott, 57. On shore, their 18-year-old daughter, Olivia, and Gregory’s girlfriend could only watch. Both parents’ bodies were later recovered, but the boy — presumed dead — is still missing. The dog eventually made it back to shore.

Sean Ledwin, a senior fisheries biologist with a Humboldt County Indian tribe who witnesssed the acccident, told the Times-Standard that ‘the dog was kind of getting rolled in the waves.”

He said Gregory Kuljian went into the water and grabbed the dog’s collar, but it fell off. Then, the teenager got swept up in the waves.

Numbed classmates at Arcata High School wore green Monday in honor of the missing boy, known on campus as ‘Geddie.’



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-- Bob Pool