It was a chance meeting on a beach on the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Australia that led James Thorp and Taylor Nieri to spend their first night together, beneath a tree under a full moon on a tropical island.
Friends described their meeting as a fairy tale beginning, their relationship regarded “as a dream come true”.
Nieri and Thorp, also known as Thorpie, had big plans together in the coming months. They wanted to return to Australia and set up a sea kayaking expedition business in the Whitsundays, where it all began.
But just one year later, on Sunday, July 16, the pair would spend their last moments together in frightening and tragic circumstances.
Thorp, from Tasmania, is facing a devastating recovery after a horror car crash in the United States killed Nieri and flung him from their car.
Just days before her death, Nieri made a chilling prediction of the future, telling a friend “forever is easy with him” and she “wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“I mean, I just live such a good life,” she said a week before the accident.
“I truly feel that I am just so lucky to be living the best life that how could I not die young?
“If I die tomorrow, it would be fine.”
Thorp and Nieri were in Oregon last Sunday when the accident occurred. According to police, the pair were driving back to Ashland, a city in Jackson County, when one of the tires on their 2002 Chevy van popped, sending the vehicle into a deathly spin, running it off the road and rolling multiple times before landing on its top. It was approximately 5 p.m.
Thorp had been “riding in the back of the van and was not wearing a seat belt.” Nieri was wearing her seatbelt.
Nieri, 22, who studied outdoor education at La Trobe University in Bendigo, passed away at the scene.
Thorp, 35, was thrown from the car and is in a serious condition at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Hospital in Eugene, on the Willamette River. He has already undergone three major surgeries to repair ample breaks to both legs and the tendons in one hand.
Thorp’s Tasmanian-based parents have flown to Oregon to be by his side as friends say the physical bruises might heal quicker than the emotional ones.
The couple were married in April and were working as whitewater rafting guides. They returned to Tasmania before moving to Oregon.
“Although Thorpie and Taylor only had one year together, they both found a soulmate in each other and unconditionally loved one another with no doubts or reservations,” friends said of the couple.
“Taylor often expressed her overwhelming love and satisfaction for her new husband and her perfect life.”
Nieri was practicing guiding for a commercial kayaking group — a hobby she had since childhood. She had packed up her life and decided to go climbing in Mexico on her first stop of a year-long adventure across the globe.
“She was happy, filled with laughter, a raised beautiful voice always interrupting or smiling. I guess you could say she really was a wild child.”
A community of Tasmanian kayakers, of which Thorp is a member, is rallying around Thorp’s side and calling for help to fund his traumatic return home.
“Our community recognizes James as a friend, beautiful person and strong contributor to this amazing community,” campaign organizer Jen Brown said.
“James has suffered the loss of his wife and he may also require assistance with grief and future planning.”
According to his GoFundMe page, Thorp suffered multiple fractures, a punctured lung, punctured spleen and broken pelvis.
The accident caused so much damage he will be flown back to Australia “and will face a long rehabilitation in a specialized facility.
He has been moved from intensive care and is “showing wonderful progress each day.”
“It is unknown when he will be able to work again. He will require extensive ongoing physio, hydro and occupational therapy for greater than 12 months that will only be partially funded by Medicare. He does not have any income protection.”
“James is a great friend to many of us and will greatly appreciate your gesture of support.”
The page has raised a mammoth $18,000 of its $20,000 goal.
Nieri’s fundraising page has raised just $4,100 of its $20,000 goal.
Thorp has traveled across the globe as a leading white water kayaking instructor. According to the Mercury, he has led expeditions “in the polar regions, Nepal, India, Mexico, South America, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and many locations in Australia, including Tasmania.”