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Search ends for teenager swept to sea

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 7:38 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Howard Kuljian and his family were out for a walk on a damp, overcast morning at Big Lagoon beach, playing fetch with their dog as 10-foot surf churned the water just feet away like a washing machine.

Signs near the beach warned of “sneaker waves,” the kind that suddenly roar ashore.

Kuljian tossed a stick that took their dog down to the water's edge and in an instant, authorities said, a wave swallowed it, setting off a nightmarish scramble early Saturday in Arcata.

“Everything kind of snowballed from there,” Coast Guard Lt. Bernie Garrigan said.

Kuljian's son ran to save the dog and struggled as he was captured by the surging surf. Kuljian followed, and later his wife. On shore, his 18-year-old daughter and his son's girlfriend could only watch.

Both parents' bodies were recovered, but the 16-year-old boy — presumed dead — is still missing. Garrigan said the search for the teen was stopped because a person without a wetsuit could not survive for long in the surf because of the water temperature.

The dog, identified by the boy's friend as “Fran,” eventually made it back to shore.

The news of the tragedy — occurring during the long holiday weekend — shocked many in their small college town on the rough Northern California coastline, about 280 miles north of San Francisco.

Students at the high school where Kuljian's son, Gregory, went wore green in his memory.

By late Monday afternoon, more than 1,300 people “liked” a Facebook page set up by the teenager's friends called “Wear Green for Geddie” — using his nickname..

“I will always remember him no matter how long,” wrote Emmalaya Owen on the Facebook page. “Especially how he was such an upbeat happy person or how he tried to put up ‘Be Happy' propaganda posters he drew around school.”

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