Twin sisters out for a morning stroll during their family vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico drowned when a rogue wave swept onto the beach and dragged them into the Pacific Ocean.
USA Today reports Beverly Ann Skripsky of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Barbara Jo Thomas of McKinney, Texas, were taking an early morning walk along the beach on October 22 when a 15-foot wave washed over them.
Their families are at a loss.
“You had two wonderful people just walking on the beach and full of life a couple hours before that, and they’re now gone,” said Steve Thomas, Barbara’s husband, told USA Today.
When the sisters did not return from their morning stroll, Thomas and the family reached out to authorities to look for them. What was supposed to be week-long vacation ended abruptly after authorities told the families they had been found dead at sea. Thomas says he was asked to go on the walk with the two sisters, but declined.
“My last memory was, ‘Come with us and go on the walk,'” said Thomas. “And I didn’t go. I literally watched her walk out the door and she wanted me to go with her.”
When the sisters didn’t return, Thomas and his family alerted authorities and went looking for them.
“We found one of their sandals, and when we found the sandal, it was like my head told me they were gone, but my heart hoped against hope,” said Thomas.
“I can’t imagine how fast it was moving, but it went from 10 feet to 15 feet in seconds,” Thomas told NBC-5 Chicago. “They found two women out at sea and I’m thinking, ‘Great — they found them,’ and I say, ‘Are they OK?’ and he says, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, sir, but they’re deceased.’”
The National Ocean Service states that rogue waves, also known as freak, or killer waves, are known as “extreme storm” waves by scientists and are very unpredictable. Rogue waves are so uncommon, there are no exact measurements or analysis on this rare occurrence.
Rogues waves are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves and come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves.
Recognizing the hazard, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico issued a warning regarding dangerous wave conditions — strong currents, rip tides and rogue waves — in the coastal areas of Baja California Sur, to include Cabo San Lucas.
“Not all hazardous beaches in this area are clearly marked,” the warning reads. “Swimmers, waders and even people simply walking along the beaches have been washed into the ocean by rogue waves. Some have drowned and others have disappeared.”
Thomas experienced it, firsthand.
“[The wave] went up five feet every second, from five feet to 20 feet, and I was literally just looking at a wall of water,” Thomas said.
The Thomases started dating in middle school and had been married for 45 years. Thomas remembers his wife as a kind, magnetic woman who loved helping others.
“Anybody that knew her loved her,” said Thomas.
The twins were both retired and enjoyed traveling together. The pair had recently returned from a trip to Dubai, Thomas told the news station.
“Lifelong best friends, the twin sisters were inseparable as they planned family get-togethers and joint vacations throughout their lives,” according to the sisters’ obituary on Legacy.com. “They will both be truly missed by all who knew their friendly smiles, warm personalities, and kind unwavering spirit to help anyone in need.”
Thomas hopes their story will help save someone else.
The largest wave in recorded history crashed down in Alaska’s Lituya Bay in 1958. An earthquake followed by a landslide generated a wave 100 feet high, snapping 1,700 trees and killing five people, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
“There are certain beaches there that are killer beaches,” said Thomas. “If you’re out on the beach or in the ocean, you need to be very, very cautious of what’s going on around you.”