Sonoma family survives after being struck by 3,000-pound redwood tree on Humboldt County beach

A miracle took place at Black Sands Beach in Humboldt County on a Tuesday in December.|

Jessie Marioni laid on the sand. Her bones were shattered. All she could do was scream.

A 3,000-pound redwood tree had rolled over her as she carried her 8-month-old baby, Maria.

Somehow both survived, though Marioni didn’t make it unscathed.

“It was a miracle,” said Marioni, 36, of Sonoma. “I felt like my life was over.”

Marioni and her family were vacationing Dec. 27 on the Lost Coast in Humboldt County when they decided to walk along Black Sands Beach, just north of the town of Shelter Cove. It was one of her favorite beaches, and she had walked the picturesque stretch a hundred times before.

A storm had hit the coast the previous night, and the ocean’s waves were strong. But the sun shined brightly that day and the weather was calm, Marioni said.

Maria, in a front-facing baby carrier, was strapped to Marioni as they walked. When they hit a stream, signaling a dead end, they started to turn back toward the trailhead.

It was then, as Marioni and her husband, Dan, stood about 200 feet from the shore break, they noticed a massive wave approaching. She said it appeared two stories tall.

They ran back toward the stream.

The wave ultimately crashed onto the beach and launched a 20-foot by 3- to 4-foot tree trunk toward Marioni and her family. It first knocked Dan over, then rolled over Marioni and Maria.

He made it back to his feet and pulled the two out of the water; they laid face down in the stream.

Dan grabbed Maria, who wasn’t injured, and ran for help.

But Marioni thought Maria was dead. “I heard bones breaking, I thought I crushed her,” she said.

The U.S. Coast Guard transported Marioni by helicopter to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. There, she said, she was told her pelvis was completely shattered. The damage was so severe they then flew her to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

She underwent a 14-hour surgery to rebuild her pelvis and remained in intensive care for six days.

Two weeks later, Marioni is in a wheelchair and focusing on her rehabilitation. Her husband, daughter and mother remain by her side.

It’ll be about four months before she can return to work at the Sonoma tattoo shop she owns.

“We’re alive, my husband’s alive — I’m gonna be able to walk again,” Marioni said. “I’m holding on to the positive even when I feel the darkness hit me sometimes.”

The family last week created a GoFundMe that’s received an outpouring of support. They’re seeking financial help to hire in-home child care, cleaning, cover expenses to modify their home for a wheelchair and hospital bills.

“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Dan Marioni said. “It could’ve been an absolute tragedy.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at @searchingformya on Twitter.

Mya Constantino

General Assignment/Features Reporter

Stories can inspire you, make you laugh, cry and sometimes, heal. I love a feature story that can encapsulate all of those things. I cover the interesting people that exist around us, art and music that move us and the hidden gems that make Sonoma County pretty cool. Let's explore those things together.

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