Surfing ‘paddle out’ will honor young NJ couple killed in car crash

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The relatives of a Jersey Shore man and woman killed in Illinois while returning home from a cross-country trip last summer will reunite at the ocean next weekend at the occasion of the first anniversary of their death.

Cole Young, 19, and Marsada “Sadi” Connors, 20, were high school sweethearts from Point Pleasant Borough. Their tragic deaths while driving east on an Illinois highway after being hit by a tractor-trailer led to a saying people remembered them, “Live Like Cole and Sadi”, posted as a hashtag on social media.

Now an organization in their memory, the Cole and Sadi Foundation, which awards scholarships and sells clothing with the saying, will host a Bay Head ‘paddle out’ surf on August 20 on Mount Street Beach.

A paddle out is common in surf and coastal communities to remember surfers or others close to the ocean. The surfers paddle through the water and end up forming a circle, saying a few words, turning off the water, singing and leaving flowers. The circle represents how the ocean brings people together, said organizer Courtney Arroyo, a board member and Young’s sister.

The Cole and Sadi event is free, and anyone interested in attending doesn’t have to get in the water, as many people are attending the celebration, and the foundation will be selling merchandise for their efforts. Lifeguards, however, will be on duty, Arroyo said.

Arroyo said the foundation, in a short time, awarded two college scholarships, sponsored two students for a week-long session at Summertime Surf Camp, and co-sponsored, with Garden State Marina, equipment for the creation of a new fishing club at a local elementary school.

Cole Young and Marsada “Sadi” Connors in a family photo.

Last summer, the couple’s death sent a wave of grief through the Point Pleasant area. Many knew that Young and Connors were on a trip out West and followed their progress on social media. They also took their dog, Maezy, who also died in the wreckage.

The couple, the mourners said, had been through a lot in their young lives, were soul mates and were planning a life together. Both were graduates of Point Pleasant Borough High School, Young in 2020, Connors in 2019. Both worked at the same local pizzeria and were active in high school sports.

They loved the outdoors, adventures and being near or in water. Young worked for a local construction company, while Connors worked at a pediatric therapy center and intended to attend Rutgers to pursue an occupational therapy degree. In 2020, seeing a need, Connors volunteered with the Borough of Point Pleasant First Aid Squad to drive ambulances during the most difficult early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illinois authorities said their van was heading east on Interstate 70, with Young at the wheel, when it was hit by a truck that rammed into oncoming traffic and threw their car into a ditch.

Connors’ mother, Kimberly Kohler, said in a lawsuit that she was on the phone with her daughter at the time. She heard him scream, the sound of an impact, and the call dropped.

Kohler and Young’s mother, Christine Kurzweil, is suing the trucking company, CRST Expedited, and several of its affiliates, as well as truck driver, Bill Lard of Los Angeles. The case was filed in Cook County, Illinois, but was later moved to federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, where it is pending. Updated documents allege the truck driver fell asleep.

More information can be found at The Cole and Sadi Foundation and one Facebook page for the paddle out.

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Kevin Shea can be reached at [email protected].

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