Ore. Mom 'Completely Shattered' After 2 Children Are Swept Out to Sea and Husband Is Hospitalized
An Oregon mother is facing unimaginable grief after authorities determined her two children were swept out to sea beside their father while hiking near the water in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Jamie Stiles is struggling to come to terms with the tragic Jan. 11 incident that killed her 7-year-old daughter Lola and 4-year-old William and left her husband Jeremy Stiles, 47, hospitalized, according to a post she shared on Facebook.
“Words cannot express how grateful I am for the outpouring of love and support to my family. I am not ok right now but am in treatment and will reach my new normal someday soon,” she wrote on Wednesday. “I have read every single comment and message sent our way and feel like each one adds a tiny drop of glue to my completely shattered heart.”
“I know Lola and William are surrounding us with their beautiful energy as we navigate a path to peace and healing,” she continued. “My babies loved adventure and I know they are off now on the grandest adventure of them all, together. Thank you all again for providing light to my dark days.”
The trio was walking on an “off-beach trail” together when a sneaker wave, which is an abnormally large coastal wave, suddenly came barreling in and swept the father and his two kids out to sea, according to a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of the Stiles.
Authorities were called to the scene around 12:40 p.m. after receiving reports of three people in the water near the Falcon Cove area, Oregon State Police confirm to PEOPLE.
A local police officer, who was the first to arrive at the scene, was able to go into the water and pull Lola out, the OSP said. However, after being rushed to Providence Seaside Hospital, the little girl was pronounced dead.
Jeremy was also pulled from the waters, but survived the incident and has been recovering from hypothermia at Seaside Hospital, according to the GoFundMe page.
As for William, the 4 year old’s body has not been recovered, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard confirms to PEOPLE.
Search teams with the USCG Pacific Northwest showed up to the scene and continued to look for William until the evening hours, they announced on Twitter.
The search was suspended just before 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, and the USCG spokesperson tells PEOPLE it has not resumed.
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William’s death was later confirmed in a statement on Lola’s school website.
“Words will never be enough to capture the sadness of the loss of both Lola and William,” wrote Hannah Senesh, a spokesperson for Vestal Elementary School. “I am, though, able to use words to say a huge and heartfelt thank you for the coming together of our community to support one another and support our children.”
“We will continue to grieve and hold space for one another,” Senesh continued. “Our next steps as a community will be considering how we can memorialize Lola and William in a way that honors their sweet lives, their family, and their place in our community.”
Vestal Elementary, which is part of the Portland Public Schools system, also posted about a Jan. 16 vigil for William and Lola on their Facebook page.
“We are heartbroken and grieving for sweet Lola and little William…” the school wrote in a post, adding in a separate one, “Sweet sweet Lola and William…we already miss your sparkle and joy so terribly much.”
Ahead of the devastating incident, the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest urged people to use caution when going to the beach in the winter months to watch the waves.
“Mother Nature is unforgiving. The beaches along the Pacific Northwest are rugged and remote. Always know the current ocean conditions,” they wrote on Facebook. “If you plan to head to a beach to witness the amazing power of the ocean, be sure to observe from a distance. Waves are unpredictable and erratic. ALWAYS have situational awareness.”
Officer Levi Read with the USCG tells PEOPLE that they “do not have authority over the beaches, only the waterways” and that they had “tapped into ports preventing vessels from going out” that day.
Read also notes that “local law enforcement had signs out but they don’t have the manpower to stand guard and ensure that people don’t go out” to the dangerous areas.
“Sneaker waves come out out of nowhere suddenly and come way further up on beach than a normal set of waves in a period,” he explains. “It’s not just the waves either — the wind was pretty steady that day too and the tide was an issue, as well.”
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“There’s no real good way to avoid a situation like this except to avoid the area at that time,” he continues. “Higher altitude is gonna be your best bet and even then, you can expect to get wet and there are dangers there too.”
In the wake of the tragedy, the GoFundMe for the Stiles family has raised over $115,000. Kristin Romaine, a family member of the Stiles and the creator of the fundraiser, said the funds would be used for funeral expenses and grief and trauma support.
“Our hearts as you can imagine could not be more broken as both children were loved beyond measure by our entire family and so many others,” she wrote.