A 19-year-old from Michigan who was vacationing in the Bahamas was killed when a gigantic wave swept him away as he was hiking. The tragedy comes shortly after he asked his girlfriend’s family for permission to marry her.
Jonathan Brussow met his girlfriend, Athena Williams, at a summer party just after they finished the eighth grade. The two bonded the next year as they sat next to each other on the school bus when Brussow moved down the street from Williams, and during those rides, a relationship soon blossomed.
“The minute he walked down to the bus, I just knew. I was so excited that Jonathan Brussow was on my bus,” Williams, 20, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, tells PEOPLE. “He later told me that he saw me, and he had butterflies in his stomach and didn’t know how he could talk to me without throwing up!”
As the couple readied to start their lives as young adults, Brussow felt the time was right to ask for his longtime girlfriend’s hand in marriage. But first, the young man wanted to ask Williams’ family for permission. While the couple was on vacation on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas with Williams’ family, Brussow did just that, as he secretly sat them down for a talk when Williams wasn’t around. Saying yes to him, Williams says, was always a given.
“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,” she says of Brussow, who was an adventurous “country boy” who loved dirt biking and hunting. “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.”
Just before dawn on March 5, Brussow woke Williams up and told her he was “going to be right back,” and left with Williams’ brother, Eric, for a hike up a nearby cliff to talk with him about the upcoming proposal. But as the hours passed with no sign of Brussow and her brother, Williams began to worry.
“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,” she recalls. “He didn’t come back.”
As the two men sat at the highest point of the cliff—which Williams says was at least 70 feet high—a freak wave came up and swept the two of them into the water below, leaving them to fight for their survival. Though Eric was badly injured, he managed to pull himself from the water by grabbing on to a rock.
With Brussow unable to return to shore, Eric ran for help. After borrowing a phone from a local woman, he messaged his sister and told her he was at a hospital. It wouldn’t be until a short time later that Williams found out Brussow wasn’t …read more