Girl badly hurt by sneaker wave on Oregon coast

A 6-year-old Freeland girl was seriously injured when a “sneaker” wave rolled a log over her during a family outing to the beach last week in Cannon Beach, Ore.

Kyah Schumacher-Nelson was sitting on a log with her brother, Jacob Nelson, 10, near Haystack Rock on Saturday, April 14. A surprise wave hit the pair, seriously injuring Kyah but sparing her older brother from harm.

Kyah received numerous facial wounds, skull fractures and a punctured lung in the freak accident.

Kyah was released from the hospital in Portland Thursday and returned to her home on Whidbey Island late this week.

Desa Brown, her aunt, said the young girl will have ongoing health issues. The family has set up a special account at Washington Mutual in Freeland for donations to Kyah’s medical care.

“She currently has lost almost all her vision in her right eye, her hearing is gone on her right side and the movement on the right side of her face is affected,” Brown said.

The family will take Kyah to an eye specialist, and they are grateful the girl’s injuries weren’t worse.

“Fortunately there was no brain injury,” Brown said.

John Nelson of Clinton said his granddaughter is making a good recovery. He said the girl’s mother was also injured while she was trying to rescue Kyah and Jacob.

“The accident was over in 30 seconds. Their mother Kindra Nelson rushed to get the kids out of harm’s way when she was also struck by the log,” John Nelson said.

Kindra Nelson was pinned by the log and suffered extensive bruising, Nelson said.

He said the two children were sitting on the only log on the beach and it was “high and dry” at the time of the accident.

“They weren’t playing in the surf, in fact, the sand around the log was dry. Then the powerful sneaker wave surprised them,” he said.

Fortunately, Nelson added, there was a nurse also visiting the beach who was able to stabilize Kyah until medics arrived on the scene.

Kyah was taken to Memorial Hospital in Astoria and later airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center in Portland. She was kept in the intensive care unit for two days.

Kyah’s kindergarten class at South Whidbey Primary School is anxious to have their classmate return to class.

“They put together a ‘get well’ booklet with drawings and get well message,” said Katherine Mack, Kyah’s teacher.

“Hopefully we will be seeing her soon back in class. The kids have been concerned about her,” Mack said.

Capt. Mike Graham of the Cannon Beach Fire Department said Kyah was conscious when they arrived on the scene, roughly three minutes after the call.

Visitors to the coast are often told to be on the lookout for rogue waves, often called “sneaker” waves because they hit without warning.

“Sneaker waves are common. They can throw you off your guard,” he said. “They are massive, swift and unpredictable.”

Sneaker wave accidents are common this time of year, Graham added.

Gayle Saran can be reached at 221-5300 or

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