Haunting Tsunami Photos Surface

tsunami sons
CBS/EARLY SHOW
There are dramatic new pictures showing just how quickly the Asian tsunami crashed ashore.

They were taken by a Canadian couple as the waves roared down on the resort town of Khao Lak, Thailand, and offer a striking look at moments just before the tsunami took their lives.

Ted Chernecki of BCTV in Vancouver, Canada reports that John and Jackie Knill and their three boys formed a very close family.

Until a few days ago, John and Jackie were considered missing.

"I've had a few restless nights of sleep since I heard they haven't found the bodies," says Christian Knill, the oldest son. "There was a little bit of hope, but now it's gone."

And a chilling twist to the discovery of the Knills is that their digital camera which, it turned out, contained pictures of the tsunami as it happened, was also found. The camera didn't survive, but the data recorded on the memory stick did.

It shows a picture was taken at 8:20 a.m. Everything looks normal.

Six minutes later, curious onlookers are seen wandering onto the suddenly exposed tidal flats, and there's what looks like a big wave breaking in the distance.

Two minutes later, 8:28, some are starting to realize this is more than just a big wave.

"I don't know why they didn't run," Christian Knill laments. "Either they knew they couldn't, or they didn't know the power of the wave."

The camera keeps clicking.

8:30 a.m., two more photos are taken. There's now a wall of water churning up sand and mud.

8:31 a.m., three more shots are captured, two of them showing someone standing at the shoreline as the tsunami roars in – it's difficult to estimate the size of the wave, because it appears the telephoto lens is zoomed in.

The very last shot in the camera was as the tsunami hit the beach, killing John and Jackie Knill.

The whole sequence from first seeing the waves to them slamming into the beach is only five minutes long.

"They were probably thinking, 'Let's try to get this. So if by chance it does get to somebody, (they could) see what happened,' you know?" said another Knill son, Patrick, 28. "And I know they're together. They were always together.

"For me, the pictures are almost wonderful. This is more closure than we thought was possible."

A vacationer from Seattle returned home and downloaded images from a memory stick he had stumbled upon in Thailand. He recognized the Knills from a missing persons Web site, and contacted their sons. The man drove to the Knills' home last week and gave the sons the images.

A memorial service for the Knills is set for next month in Vancouver.