Arcata High Student, Parents Drown At Big Lagoon – November 26, 2012

Arcata High School student Blaire Floyd signs a makeshift memorial for student Gregory "Geddie" Kulijan. Photo by Forrest Lewis | Arcata High School Pepperbox

Mad River Newspaper Guild

HUMBOLDT – Three family members died Saturday, Nov. 24, after they were swept into the ocean at Big Lagoon while trying to rescue their dog, and then each other.

Two of the deceased were identified by the Humboldt County Coroner on Monday as Freshwater residents Mary Scott, 54,  and Howard Kuljian, 50. As of press time, their son  – 16-year-old Gregory “Geddie” Kuljian – was still missing.

They are survived by daughter Olivia, 18.

The family was at the beach Saturday afternoon. They were playing stick with their dog when the family pet reportedly got swept out into the ocean by 10-foot waves. The beach at Big Lagoon has a steep dropoff.

The Kulijan family: Mary Scott, Gregory "Geddie" Kuljian, Olivia Kuljian and Howard Kuljian.

Sean Ledwin, a biologist with the Hoopa Valley Tribe, was walking on the beach at the same time,  witnessed the sequence of events and described what happened in a statement to the Times-Standard.

He said the Kuljians' dog had been chasing a stick and got caught up in the surf when Geddie went to rescue him. He too was swept up in the roiling waves, and his father, Howard, went in after him. He too was engulfed in surf.

Minutes later, Mary attempted to reach Howard, who was close to the shore, and was swept in.

Ledwin's girlfriend had called 911, and provided updates as the family members became lost in the waves.

Daughter Olivia, a friend, Ledwin and his girlfriend were unable to approach the victims due to the violent surf.

The roiling waves carried the victims toward the shore and then back out to sea in what Ledwin described as a circular motion.

A police officer arrived, and Mary was pulled ashore. Resuscitation attempts failed. Howard's body eventually washed ashore to the north.

The dog emerged from the surf uninjured.

Coast Guard Lt. Bernie Garrigan said the first call came in at 12:40 p.m. Two 47-foot motor lifeboats and a search and rescue helicopter were deployed to the area.

The Coast Guard uses a computer program to manage searches. A data marker buoy is launched to track drift, and the search is conducted with constantly updated data.

Rescuers were able to retrieve both the parents’ bodies. The Coast Guard searched for Geddie by boat and helicopter. The search was suspended at 6:45 p.m. due to heavy fog.

Students dressed in green arrive at Arcata High today. Photo by Forrest Lewis | Arcata High School Pepperbox

At Arcata High today, students wore green to honor the memory of Geddie, who enjoyed nature and greenery. "When I look outside, that's all I see," he was known to say.

Grieving students recalled their lost  friend.  "That's why we're wearing green today, he wouldn't want us to be wearing black," said one. "He'd rather have us celebrate his life then have us mourn over it," said another.

AHS junior Ian Johnson counted Geddie among his best friends. "He was the greatest person I ever knew," Johnson said. "If you didn't know him, you wish you did."

Geddie's interests included art and music, and he was on the AHS track team for two years. "His family was at the beach all the time," Johnson said.

Johnson said Kuljian "always had a kind word for everyone, and his parents were just as nice. They gave hospitality to everyone."

McKinleyville Press Editor Jack Durham, Arcata High School Pepperbox Editor Forrest Lewis and Eye Editor Kevin Hoover contributed to this story.

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44 Comments

  1. Evonne McConkey said:

    I will alway remember you Mary you change my life. Evonne Mcconkey

  2. Evonne McConkey said:

    I will alway remember you Mary you change my life. Evonne Mcconkey

  3. Evonne McConkey said:

    I will alway remember you Mary you change my life. Evonne Mcconkey

  4. Pingback: 'Sneaker waves' blamed for deaths in California family – Fox News | Devise Hive

  5. Pingback: Three believed drowned trying to rescue dog – ohmidog! | Devise Hive

  6. Margaret Brown said:

    Mary Scott became my sister's most valuable friend when she had colon cancer 11 years ago. Mary understood her, opened her heart to her and reached her deeply. It was wonderful for me to see. When I heard Mary's name in the news, I couldn't believe it. How sad. What a generous, loving person she was.

  7. Margaret Brown said:

    Mary Scott became my sister's most valuable friend when she had colon cancer 11 years ago. Mary understood her, opened her heart to her and reached her deeply. It was wonderful for me to see. When I heard Mary's name in the news, I couldn't believe it. How sad. What a generous, loving person she was.

  8. Margaret Brown said:

    Mary Scott became my sister's most valuable friend when she had colon cancer 11 years ago. Mary understood her, opened her heart to her and reached her deeply. It was wonderful for me to see. When I heard Mary's name in the news, I couldn't believe it. How sad. What a generous, loving person she was.

  9. Nicole Barchilon Frank said:

    They were wearing green at NPA as well. Treasure each day, each person, each moment. Our lives are precious and when we leave this earth is an unknown, so it behooves us to treat each other and those around us and the planet with kindness, respect and love ALWAYS!

  10. Nicole Barchilon Frank said:

    They were wearing green at NPA as well. Treasure each day, each person, each moment. Our lives are precious and when we leave this earth is an unknown, so it behooves us to treat each other and those around us and the planet with kindness, respect and love ALWAYS!

  11. Nicole Barchilon Frank said:

    They were wearing green at NPA as well. Treasure each day, each person, each moment. Our lives are precious and when we leave this earth is an unknown, so it behooves us to treat each other and those around us and the planet with kindness, respect and love ALWAYS!

  12. Anne Weiss said:

    Oh my–I knew her and loved her well. I am in tears. Her work at the Senior Resource Center and with Women's Breast Cancer was wonderful beyond words.

  13. Anne Weiss said:

    Oh my–I knew her and loved her well. I am in tears. Her work at the Senior Resource Center and with Women's Breast Cancer was wonderful beyond words.

  14. Anne Weiss said:

    Oh my–I knew her and loved her well. I am in tears. Her work at the Senior Resource Center and with Women's Breast Cancer was wonderful beyond words.

  15. Sara Senger said:

    What a terribly tragic loss for the entire community. I knew Mary Scott as an amazingly talented cartoonist and passionate advocate for seniors and women. I am heartbroken.

  16. Sara Senger said:

    What a terribly tragic loss for the entire community. I knew Mary Scott as an amazingly talented cartoonist and passionate advocate for seniors and women. I am heartbroken.

  17. Sara Senger said:

    What a terribly tragic loss for the entire community. I knew Mary Scott as an amazingly talented cartoonist and passionate advocate for seniors and women. I am heartbroken.

  18. Sara Senger said:

    I am hoping against hope that this Mary Scott isn't the same wonderful, warm, talented person I worked with at the Senior Resource Center. I can't tell from the picture. Does anyone know?

  19. Sara Senger said:

    I am hoping against hope that this Mary Scott isn't the same wonderful, warm, talented person I worked with at the Senior Resource Center. I can't tell from the picture. Does anyone know?

  20. Sara Senger said:

    I am hoping against hope that this Mary Scott isn't the same wonderful, warm, talented person I worked with at the Senior Resource Center. I can't tell from the picture. Does anyone know?

  21. Jeff Schmitt said:

    Evidently, Eureka High was flooded in green as well, and many people in the Humboldt community wore green. Many people throughout California, the West Coast and across the country wore green in honor of the Kulijans. There were even people across the globe wearing green in their honor, including Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, and many more.

  22. Jeff Schmitt said:

    Evidently, Eureka High was flooded in green as well, and many people in the Humboldt community wore green. Many people throughout California, the West Coast and across the country wore green in honor of the Kulijans. There were even people across the globe wearing green in their honor, including Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, and many more.

  23. Jeff Schmitt said:

    Evidently, Eureka High was flooded in green as well, and many people in the Humboldt community wore green. Many people throughout California, the West Coast and across the country wore green in honor of the Kulijans. There were even people across the globe wearing green in their honor, including Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, and many more.

  24. Sierra Brody said:

    I couldn't help but cry. 🙁 but geddie we love youu. <3

  25. Sierra Brody said:

    I couldn't help but cry. 🙁 but geddie we love youu. <3

  26. Sierra Brody said:

    I couldn't help but cry. 🙁 but geddie we love youu. <3

  27. Andris 'Deke' D'Carlo said:

    Very sad news..My thoughts are with their daughter, family and friends. What a tragedy.

  28. Andris 'Deke' D'Carlo said:

    Very sad news..My thoughts are with their daughter, family and friends. What a tragedy.

  29. Andris 'Deke' D'Carlo said:

    Very sad news..My thoughts are with their daughter, family and friends. What a tragedy.

  30. Charity L. McAllister said:

    This is SO awful, I don't even know what to post! I feel sick –

  31. Charity L. McAllister said:

    This is SO awful, I don't even know what to post! I feel sick –

  32. Charity L. McAllister said:

    This is SO awful, I don't even know what to post! I feel sick –

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