Sneaker wave expert working on warning system

Father, toddler were swept out to sea Sunday

NORTH BEND, Ore. (AP) - One moment, Jayson Thomas was on the Oregon beach with his 3-year-old son. The next, they were gone, swept away by a "sneaker wave" as his wife looked on.

These were but the latest deaths caused by sneaker waves. A leading expert says they are a particular threat in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuba Ozkan-Haller of Oregon State University says there needs to be greater awareness to prevent future tragedies.

Ozkan-Haller is carrying out a three-year research project to devise a sneaker-wave early warning system that could be broadcast and published by the National Weather Service.

The Coast Guard said late Monday morning it had suspended the search for the pair after a wave swept them to sea Sunday.

The 31-year-old man, identified Monday by Oregon State Police as Jayson Dean Thomas of Elmira, and his 3-year-old son were walking on a beach about 2 miles north of Cape Blanco on the southern Oregon Coast just before 1 p.m. Sunday when the wave struck. The boy's mother saw it happen and called authorities.

Coast Guard crews in helicopters and search boats and state troopers in all-terrain vehicles on Sunday found only the man's jacket and a child carrier he had been wearing in the surf. Coast Guard Petty Officer Amanda Norcross said a helicopter crew had continued the search Monday morning, but it was called off shortly before noon after covering 112 square miles.

State Police spokesman Capt. Bill Fugate said the area of the beach where they were swept away is steep and the seas were rough due to an approaching storm.

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