- About NCO
It was a bittersweet homecoming as Keaton Huff brought his daughters, Aryianna Rath and Lylah Huff, home from the hospital tonight, just in time to attend their mother’s funeral tomorrow. At a private service, the immediate family will say goodbye to Jessica Marie (Rath) Huff one final time on Monday. The family is hoping the public will understand and let them grieve in private during this time. A celebration of life is planned at a later date to be announced.
An account for the benefit of the girls was opened on Friday and contributions are already coming in. Notes of condolence often accompany the contributions being made through Paypal. “Sending prayers and love your way, little ones! We offer this money on behalf of our friend,” one read. From another, “May the little ones get well quickly. A Canadian traveler, touched by your situation.”
Contributions can be made to the Rath Huff Benefit Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank branch or via Paypal to Rathhuff@yahoo.com. In Astoria Kick Ass Koffee, 327 W Marine Dr, is also collecting donations on behalf of the girls. The funds will be used for medical bills and continued care of the youngsters. Huff is a commercial fisherman whose job requires him to leave his family for weeks at a time, an occupation that may have to be reconsidered now that he has been forced into the role of single parent.
It was late Tuesday night, February 19th, when Jessica (Rath) Huff headed out from Astoria, Oregon, over the bridge to the Washington side of the Columbia River to pick up her husband, Keaton Huff, a commercial fisherman who was coming in from a fishing trip. Around midnight Keaton talked with Jessica and let her know that
the port they would be going to had been changed from the original destination in Washington to Portland, Oregon. He told the Washington State police that he told her not to worry about picking him up in Portland but Jessica insisted that she was okay to do the 90 mile drive. That was the last time Keaton spoke to his wife. When he arrived in Portland she wasn’t there and when he arrived home in Astoria she wasn’t there, either. On Wednesday morning at 10:10 am, not knowing that officers were headed to him with tragic news, Keaton posted on his Facebook wall, “my wife n kids are missing. if anyone can help please call 791 ….”.
On the other side of the river two commercial fishermen had made a horrendous discovery. According to interviews they gave to various news outlets, the two spotted what appeared from a distance to be a basketball-sized gash in an alder tree along State Highway 401 near Naselle, Washington. The fishermen, Kraai McClure and Scott Beutler, said they traveled the two-lane road frequently, and had “a gut feeling something was wrong.” The men spotted the wrecked vehicle a couple hundred feet off of the road. In the bushes nearby, huddled in a blanket, were the two young girls. “They could say their names but were totally in shock,” McClure said.
Washington State Trooper Russ Winger said investigators believe the 4-year-old, Aryianna Huff, pulled her sister from the mangled vehicle, helped her to a spot about 20 feet away where the fishermen found them. Aryianna also had the presence of mind to grab a blanket from the vehicle. Winger said keeping warm with the blanket was vital with temperatures in the low 40s.
Winger described the fishermen as heroes for acting on their hunch. According to news accounts, however, McClure gives the credit to Aryianna for helping Lylah out of the car and keeping her warm. “She saved her sister,” McClure said. “She was sharp enough. I don’t know how she did it or anything else, but something was watching over those little girls.”
Four-year-old Aryianna’s leg was injured in the accident but she still managed to pull her two-year-old sister, Lylah, out of the car. The toddler had leg and head injuries. The little girls then covered themselves with a blanket and hid in bushes as the temperature dropped to the 40s overnight and rain began to fall. The youngsters were alone in the elements for over six hours according to Washington State police before they were found by McClure and Beautler.
Keaton met them at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, where the girls were first taken. From there they were taken to OHSU in Portland. Aryianna was released from OHSU Saturday evening while Lylah had been transferred over to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital the night before. Lylah was released from Doernbecher today and both girls are home with dad this evening.
Cards can be sent to the girls in care of their grandfather, Mike Rath, 92716 Claremont Rd, Astoria, Oregon, 97103.