A 19-year-old Michigan man has been killed by a freak wave shortly after asking permission marry his girlfriend. Jonathan Brussow was hiking a cliff with his girlfriend’s brother while on vacation in the Bahamas when a massive wave swept the pair over the rocks. Jonathan’s body was discovered some four days later.
After meeting Athena Williams back in eighth grade, the two developed an incredibly close bond over the years, eventually becoming involved romantically. As the couple became young adults, Brussow decided it was time to pop the question, but he wanted to do it traditionally – requesting the permission of Athena’s father. He decided that a perfect time to do this would be when the pair were due to go on holiday with William’s family to the Bahamas.
Brussow managed to get a moment with Athena’s parents when she wasn’t around and asked for their blessing – they were thrilled and gave him a resounding “yes.”
“Me and Jonathan, we knew we were going to get married. We knew we were still young, but—it sounds so cheesy—but we’ve just been so much in love. We didn’t spend a minute apart from each other unless we had to,” Athena told PEOPLE. “We were creating such a beautiful life together. I knew he wanted to propose to me but I didn’t know he was asking my parents.”
On the morning of March 5, Jonathan told Athena that he was headed out for a hike so he could chat with her brother, Eric, about the proposal. Despite telling his girlfriend that he was “going to be right back,” the hours continued to pass by without any sign of the teen. “The sun was coming up and I was looking out my window trying to look for him, waiting for him to come back and come lay down or something,” Athena recalled. “He didn’t come back.”
The pair had been hiking up a 70-foot high cliff when a freak wave crashed over them, causing both boys to go crashing down the rocks and into the sea. Though Eric was badly injured, he managed to pull himself from the water by grabbing hold of a rock – but there was no sign of Jonathan.
As Eric was rushed to the hospital, a massive search and rescue operation began. local Bahamians pulled together to provide the family with water and food. The locals spent many hours searching for Jonathan with the family. “We never stopped searching, we had so much hope,” Athena said. “If there was one person who could get out of this situation, it’s Jonathan Brussow, and anyone would tell you that.”
Eventually, Jonathan’s body was discovered, hundreds of yards away from where the boys had fallen. “It’s been a very tragic experience, but I’ve come to the conclusion that since this had to happen to us, I’m glad that it happened on this island,” Williams explained. “We wouldn’t have been able to come to peace with this situation to understand it, to get through it, without the people here. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for the transportation of Jonathan’s body back to the US.
“Jonathan Brussow was born on May 31, 1998 in the straight line wind storm that swept through Kent county. His mother and I arrived at hospital through roads of debris to have Jonathan enter this world minutes later,” the Brussow family wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“On March 5, 2018 another storm (larger than the island of Eleuthera has seen since 1992) swept Jonathan off into the sea. On March 9 2018 Jonathan’s body was recovered atop a cliff several hundred yards down from where the sea grabbed him. It is our belief that he came ashore shortly after he entered the water and did not suffer.”
“God brought Jonathan in with a storm and took him back in a storm.”
Funds from the campaign will be used for a number of other things, as per the wishes of Brad Brussow, Jonathan’s Father.
“Several local people took ferries from other islands to help in the search, and Brad wants to reimburse them,” the page reads. “Their help proved to be invaluable. Jonathan obviously needs to come home and arrangements made. Brad would like to offer the Bahamian people a memorial in Jonathan’s honor of safety gear at the bridge so that others may be offered help quicker. The ideas continue to pour in…and they all take money.”
“What a generous community we have! To raise this much money in such a short amount of time is amazing. The human spirit never ceases to amaze me.”
Posted by Athena Williams on Tuesday, March 13, 2018
The page has raised over $20,000 so far.
“I am blessed with two beautiful families standing by my side through this tragic loss. Sitting here today in the Bahamas, I look out at the water and the sky and notice that this is the calmest day we have experienced this whole trip,” Athena wrote on Facebook. “We also hear dirt bikes running out in the distance! I truly do believe it is Jonathan calming the storm and telling us he is at peace and in Gods hands.”
“I am 20 years old, I found the absolute love of my life, the one who was going to marry me some day. To have that love taken away from me so quickly has been heart breaking. I truly know the meaning of 5 more minutes and to give anything to have him back. Jonathan was so full of life and adventure, so full of love. He lifted me up through stressful points in my life, he gave me the power to start creating life and seeing the beauty in absolutely everything.”
Messages of support and prayer have been pouring in for Williams and Brussow’s family. “I was moved by your love story. I hope this tragedy does not happen to anybody else,” one person posted on the GoFundMe page.
“May his soul rest in perfect peace,” another added. “We have so many great memories of Jonathan growing up, all of which include his radiant smile and the twinkle in his eyes. We will miss him so much! But we will rejoice in the knowledge he is in God’s glorious presence! With love to you all—Carolyn, Brad, Alex, Allison, and Athena-Our deepest sympathies.”