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Holiday couple left record of their last moments
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  1. #1
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    Holiday couple left record of their last moments as waves engulfed the beach
    February 25, 2005
    The Times, By Tim Reid
    Camera memory card found in the debris has shown family how parents faced up to death

    SEVERAL terrifying photographs of the Boxing Day tsunami taken by a Canadian couple moments before they were swept to their deaths have been released.

    The pictures, dated December 26 and taken just after 8am local time, emerged yesterday following the discovery of the couple’s smashed digital camera on a beach at Khao Lak, Thailand, with its memory card still intact.

    As they stood on the beach looking out to sea, John and Jackie Knill, from Vancouver, British Columbia, took one picture at 8.20am — of a calm, beautiful morning with nothing apparently amiss.

    Six minutes later, others on the beach are shown gazing at the suddenly receding tide and the exposed sand flats, an ominous sign of an impending tsunami. Apparently they are oblivious to the large wave that has formed a line on the horizon.

    Then a pair of photographs taken at 8.30am shows a wall of water, filled with sand and debris, rampaging toward them. Rather than try to run for their lives, the couple, whom their family suspect knew that they were going to die, instead stood and recorded the murderous natural force that was about to kill them.

    “I don’t know why they didn’t run,” one of the couple’s three sons, Christian Knill, told Global TV in Vancouver. “Either they knew they couldn’t or they didn’t know the power of the wave.”

    Patrick Knill, 28, said: “There was nothing they could do. Maybe they chose to sit there at a place they loved.

    “It was weird to see the pictures. But I’m glad we have them. I can sleep better at night. This is more than we could ever have asked for,” he told the Seattle Times. “It’s like being there with our parents and seeing what they were seeing in those final moments.

    “So many people still have no answers. It has taken so much stress off me and my brothers. It’s hard not knowing anything and now we know.”

    He said he was especially happy to see photographs taken in the days before the tsunami struck. “They were having a great time. They loved that place. It was their great escape.”

    John Knill, 54, was a songwriter and studio owner. He and his wife, also 54, travelled frequently to Thailand and considered it a second home.

    The American missionary who found the camera, Christian Pilet, 40, is convinced the Knills must have known their fate.

    He found the camera a week after the disaster and, after retrieving the wafer-thin disc card, viewed them on his laptop. “It was stunning,” Mr Pilet said. “What we saw in these pictures were the last five minutes of these people’s lives.”

    He thinks the Knills knew that they and everyone else on the beach were about to die. “I think it took a lot of courage to take those pictures,” he said.

    He said he was touched by the early shots of the couple who appeared happy and relaxed. He wanted to return them to the couple’s family, but he had no idea who they were.

    After he returned home to Seattle, Mr Pilet’s wife saw a picture of the Knills on a website for missing travellers. He e-mailed a picture to David Knill, who confirmed that it portrayed his parents.

    A week before Mr Pilet tracked the family down, they had received the official confirmation that their parents’ bodies had been identified, after a post-mortem examination. John Knill’s body was found on December 31 and his wife’s on January 13.

    Mr Pilet had travelled to the region earlier this month to assess the relief effort. The resorts were all destroyed, he recalls. “We saw suitcases that were never claimed. Shoes. Thousands and thousands of shoes. Passports.

    “My friend spotted the camera. One more piece of junk. It was smashed up pretty bad.”

    He popped out the memory card and threw the camera away. At his hotel, however, he uploaded the pictures on his computer — and was confronted with a flawless set of photographs that recorded the Knills’ final moments.

  2. #2
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    So so sad. What a terrible feeling they must have had. Not knowing what was about to happen.

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