NBC News and news services
updated 2/25/2005 10:33:13 AM ET 2005-02-25T15:33:13

Images found in the camera of a Canadian couple killed in the Dec. 26 tsunami have helped their family deal with the tragedy, relatives told NBC's "Today" show on Friday.

John and Jackie Knill of North Vancouver, frequent visitors to the Thai resort Khao Lak, were apparently on the beach when the tsunami hit Dec. 26. The final images show a sequence of water shots with a large wave approaching.

"Each of us dealt with it differently," said Terri Maguire, John Knill's sister, of the images recovered by a man searching through debris hundreds of miles away. "I thought it was comforting to know how they spent their last moments. It gave me a sense of calm because I knew that they weren't running in terror."

Her husband, Roy Maguire, concurred, saying it helped "provide closure" to their deaths. The family was notified last week that their remains had been confirmed.

Roy Maguire had himself gone to the resort to search for the couple, but it was in vain. The couple's passports were recovered while he was there, he noted, having "washed up together on that beach."

'Last words' that were cut off
Christian Pilet, the man who with a friend found the camera, said they were checking "a beach full of rubble" and thought it was just "one more piece of debris" until the friend found a memory stick in the camera. Video: Final images

Back at their hotel, the two put the stick in a computer and found images.

"It was as if you were hearing somebody speak their last words and then suddenly they are cut off in mid-sentence," Pilet told "Today."

Pilet said that when he returned to his home outside Seattle, Wash., his wife began to compare photos of the couple with those of missing tsunami victims and found the Knills on her first attempt.

Waves grow larger
In the sequence of photos over the course of a few minutes, some curious onlookers are shown wandering onto suddenly exposed tidal flats, a sign of the impending tsunami. In one, a large wave appears to be breaking in the distance.

Knill Family  /  AP
John and Jackie Knill pose at a resort in Khao Lak, Thailand, on Dec. 12, 2004.

The pictures show that within minutes, the wave grows larger and some beachgoers begin to take notice.

“I don’t know why they didn’t run,” their son Christian Knill told Global TV in Vancouver. “Either they knew they couldn’t or they didn’t know the power of the wave.”

A photo taken at 8:30 a.m. shows a wall of water churning up sand and mud. A final shot a couple of minutes later shows the tsunami hitting the beach.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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