Teen Cheerleader Poses For Photos On Beach, Ends Up Dead

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When a group of teens headed to the beach and decided to pose for some photos, they never imagined that it would end in tragedy. That’s exactly what happened, though, as a promising student and cheerleader had her life cut short before everyone’s eyes. Now, her death serves as a warning.

Aurora Genai Sheffel
Aurora Genai Sheffel (Photo Credit: GoFundMe)

Aurora Genai Sheffel, a 14-year-old freshman from Eugene, Oregon, had a bright and promising future ahead of her. The straight-A North Eugene High School student was already a flyer on the varsity cheer team — an unusual accomplishment for a freshman — and she had a 10-year plan that included graduating from high school early before seeking a degree in marine biology. Sadly, one tragic event would change the trajectory of her life, bringing it to an untimely and premature end.

It was the first day of spring break, and Aurora and some of her friends, along with one of her friends’ parents, had decided to enjoy the Saturday afternoon on Bandon’s South Jetty Park beach. The weather was reportedly windy that day, and there were not a lot of people on the beach, but the girls were still determined to enjoy the day. Making the most of it, they decided that the picturesque shore would make for great photos.

Aurora Genai Sheffel was a talented cheerleader (Photo Credit: Facebook/North Eugene Cheerleading)

After spotting a log resting on the sandy shore, Aurora and one of her friends stood on top, looking toward the surf as another friend snapped a photo during the heavy receding tide. The image was then sent to Aurora’s mom, Cora Sheffel Wederquist, who was not on the trip. Little did Cora know, that was the last photo that would ever be taken of her daughter alive and the cause of her child’s death was right there in the image.

According to the mom, the photo captured a seemingly innocuous wave that could be seen coming in. After the photo was taken, Aurora’s friend reportedly jumped off the log, but Aurora did not. Instead, a “sneaker wave” rushed in and Aurora became trapped in the surf when the log she had just been standing on was lifted by the wave before rolling on top of her and pinning her in the water, her parents were told, according to a local news outlet.

A “sneaker wave,” also known as a sleeper wave, is a disproportionately large, unexpected coastal wave that can sometimes appear in a wave train without warning. More importantly, they are “potentially deadly waves that surge further up the beach than expected, overtaking the unaware,” according to the National Weather Service.

These waves can sweep beachgoers into the ocean, as well as lift heavy debris, creating other dangers, which is exactly what happened that fateful day. “Logs on the beach are wet, extremely heavy, and can weigh hundreds of pounds,” NWS explains. “Yet a single sneaker wave can lift and roll these logs further up the beach, as well as roll them back down the beach, knocking over or pinning unsuspecting beachgoers.” The following video shows just how quick and forceful such a wave can be:

Aurora’s friends, who had jumped from the log and escaped unharmed, quickly attempted to rescue their friend, but Aurora had already sustained life-threatening injuries. Emergency crews were called and arrived, but despite the best efforts of a responding Bandon police officer, who administered CPR, and the paramedics who performed life-saving measures, Aurora succumbed to her injuries. She was pronounced dead at Southern Coos Hospital in Bandon.

“A woman came and brought blankets to the traumatized soaked friends who were cold, wet, crying, and in shock,” recalled Coos Bay photographer Steven Michael, who said he came upon the scene’s aftermath. “She told them, ‘You need to stop and pray right now, it looks like they’re losing her,'” he added. “I saw a man standing alone looking distraught and in shock while watching the ambulance drive off with lights and siren blaring. He was holding a child’s plastic beach bucket and a pair of wet shoes.”

Aurora Genai Sheffel
Aurora Genai Sheffel (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Although some reports stated Aurora was taking a “selfie,” her mother said that’s simply not true — nor did Aurora have her back to the water when the accident happened as some reports stated, the mom said. “She turned her head and it happened,” Cora Wederquist said. “I spoke to her friend [who] tried to help her. A 14-year-old girl tried to move that log herself, but more water came and rolled it on my daughter. She said it was so quick and that Aurora felt no pain.”

Following the tragic death, Oregon State Police issued a safety tip from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, State Parks. “The ocean is strong enough to pick up even the biggest log and roll it down on top of you,” the tip warned. “Some logs may look small, but even the tiny ones can be waterlogged and weigh tons. How to play it safe: If you see a log in the surf or on wet sand, stay off it.” In addition, the NWS advises that beachgoers never turn their back on the ocean.