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Family relieved US tsunami victim's body found

The state medical examiner's office in Portland announced Tuesday that dental records confirmed the body found in Oregon was Dustin Weber.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jon Weber wants to remember his son peacefully soaking in a hot spring high in the Cascade Range, watching eagles soar overhead, not the fear the young man may have felt when he was violently swept out to sea by the tsunami from Japan that hit the Northern California coast.

Now that authorities have identified a body that washed up on an Oregon beach as his son, Dustin Weber, Jon Weber is thinking he will scatter some of his ashes along a trail leading to the hot springs where they used to go together.

"The last time, it was just him and I and the bald eagles and the golden eagles, and we sat there and enjoyed life a few moments," he said Tuesday as he described the site on the shores of Paulina Lake south of Bend.

Dustin Weber, 25, had moved from Bend to Requa, Calif., to start a new life on the Yurok reservation at the mouth of the Klamath River two weeks before the March 11 tsunami. He was fixing up a house given to him by his grandmother, family members have said.

Thinking the initial tsunami surge had passed and that subsequent waves would be small, Weber hiked with two new friends from the reservation down a steep and narrow path that winds through thick brush, family members have said. It runs past a rock formation said to resemble a Yurok woman with a basket on her back, to a small rocky beach on the north side of the Klamath River. His new friends tried to save him but couldn't.

'So fast and hard'
"The wave just came so fast and hard," said his mother, Lori Davis, of Bend. "They were soaking wet, both of them. They were lucky they weren't taken also."

Three weeks later and 330 miles to the north, someone walking along the beach at Fort Stevens State Park found a body and notified authorities. The state medical examiner's office in Portland announced Tuesday that dental records confirmed it was Dustin Weber.

Family and friends had searched the beaches for days, using ropes to descend steep embankments to reach some of them, with no sign of the body.

"If you walk that whole beach, it's pretty awesome, as far as the strength of that wave coming down there, which was pretty unique," said Jon Weber. "It gets flowing very, very fast there. You get in that current and you're gone like a bullet. I think that's what happened. I hope that's what happened. I hope he was knocked out. It's tough."

They gave up waiting and held a memorial service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bend, where Dustin's father is a member of the congregation, and published a death notice in the local newspaper.

Dustin Weber was the first person killed by a tsunami on the West Coast since 1964, when 11 people in nearby Crescent City, Calif., died from the surge created by an earthquake in Alaska.

The currents along the shore would usually take a body south. But the tsunami would have taken it miles out to sea, where it was pushed north by the winds from winter storms that have been unusually numerous and intense this year, said Humboldt State University tsunami expert Lori Dengler.

"Wow," she said upon learning of the distance the body had traveled. "I must admit that I am surprised."

The biggest of the tsunami surges measured 8.1 feet in the harbor at Crescent City, about 20 miles north.

Davis said her boyfriend told her the news of an unidentified body found April 2 near Astoria after reading about it while visiting Eugene, and she immediately contacted authorities there.

Davis said she planned to erect a headstone and bury some of her son's ashes among his ancestors in her family cemetery on the bluff overlooking where he died.

"We can finally put this to rest and go on with our life," she said, "and just remember Dustin the way he used to be and the way he made us all feel good inside.

"He just brought smiles to our face every time we looked at him. He was just such a beautiful, handsome man."