Rogue wave in Middle Cove

David Whalen
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Two-metre breaker leaves people running for their lives

An evening of bonfires and fun on the beach in Middle Cove was disrupted Sunday when a rogue wave washed ashore, taking several people off their feet and nearly washing away at least one woman.

Witnesses estimated the wave was up to two metres high when it struck, at about 8:05 p.m.

Rushing towards the crowd on the beach, the water knocked Glenda Antle off her feet, towing her into open water.

Former lifeguard Grant Fitzpatrick helped to save the lives of four people who were swept off their feet at Middle Cove by a huge wave just past 8 p.m. Sunday evening. He was at the beach Monday afternoon speaking to others involved in the near tragedy du

An evening of bonfires and fun on the beach in Middle Cove was disrupted Sunday when a rogue wave washed ashore, taking several people off their feet and nearly washing away at least one woman.

Witnesses estimated the wave was up to two metres high when it struck, at about 8:05 p.m.

Rushing towards the crowd on the beach, the water knocked Glenda Antle off her feet, towing her into open water.

"This big wave grabbed me and washed me on out. My husband saw me and ran on out," she said.

Antle said she would likely have kept going if she hadn't been spotted by her common-law spouse, Lawrence Lafitte.

"My husband and another Good Samaritan got me and hauled me on out of it."

She said she was fine, except for an injury to her finger.

"But I'm fine, busted up a bit, but I'm fine."

Lafitte said he hadn't seen a wave like that before.

"Oh, higher than you and higher than me. Unbelievable," he said, describing the wave.

Former lifeguard Grant Fitzpatrick also saw the wave coming in. He said most of the 80 to 100 people on the beach at the time didn't expect such an impact.

"It kept cresting, kept going higher, and when it hit I was turned back on," he said.

When he turned around, it was coming inland, still three or four-feet high.

"I grabbed my daughter and threw her up on the grass embankment. I grabbed my cousin's little guy and threw him up there, too," he said.

"My uncle was behind me, and he was screaming for help. I went back in, pretty much up to my waist, and got down and held onto him (as the wave) went back out."

Teenager Anna O'Brien was at the beach with friends when the wave hit. She said they expected the wave to die down as it approached shore.

"We thought by the time it got in it would have gone down," she said.

"Everyone just started bolting. They ran as fast as they could to get away."

Blocked by the crowd, O'Brien was overtaken by the wave.

"It was like a rush," she said. "I couldn't control (myself) because it was pulling me in a different direction."

She said she fell into the water and was helped out by her friend.

Security guard Joshua McCarthy said the sky went dark as the wave crashed on to the beach, dousing the bonfires.

"Initially I thought someone got taken out by a swell. There was lots of screams. It was pretty intense," McCarthy said.

At the time of the wave, the air was warm and the wind was low.

"I've been there every night of the summer. That's the first time I've ever seen something like that."

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor Robert Roche was at his nearby home at the time of the wave. He'd noticed the tide was strong all day, but said he's never seen a rogue wave hit the beach on such a calm evening.

"I've never seen it on a summer night with no wind," Roche said.

St. John's Regional Fire Department Supt. Randy Hammond said everyone who was on the beach was accounted for within two hours of the event.

He said four people were sent to hospital for observation, but there were no serious injuries.

Norm Catto, a geographer at Memorial University, surveyed the scene Monday morning. He said rogue waves aren't anything out of the ordinary.

"They're unusual but not unheard of," Catto said. "It's something that does occur along our coastline probably several times a year."

Rogue waves are caused when a series of waves combine to form larger and larger swells. Catto said waves can reach as high as 25 metres.

"Every once in a while you get exactly the right combination of wavelengths and heights so that the waves end up adding themselves together," he said.

Catto said rogue waves are virtually impossible to predict, but can be recognized as they get closer to shore.

"If you're on the beach, the best thing to do is keep your eyes open," Catto said.

Roche echoed that sentiment.

"The ocean has a mind of its own and the risk is always there," he said.

emclean@thetelegram.com david_whalen@hotmail.com

Geographic location: Middle Cove, Logy Bay, St. John's

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