Family petitions for 'Zack's Law' to prevent cold water drowning in Washington

A family from Centralia started a petition to create Zack’s law in Washington state.

It’s in honor of 18-year-old Zachary Rager who drowned on March 23 in the Chehalis River. His parents said crews didn’t find Rager in the water until April 19.

"They had said that he jumped off the bridge - like he’d always done. [His friends] tried to jump in and save him," said dad Lee Hines. "Zack passed out when they were trying to get him back to shore and slipped off of him and went underwater. He came back up one more time and they couldn’t get to him because of the over brush on the side of the river, and then when he went down again they never saw him after that."

"We were at the river sun up to sundown until April 19 every single day looking for Zachary," said mom Kimberly Hines.

Rager’s parents said the water temperature was 42 degrees when their son drowned.

"If we can just save one more life. There’s just so many drownings in the state every year just from cold water shock and that’s what happened to Zack," said Lee.

Soon after Rager’s death, his cousin Courtney Amaryllis created a petition in hopes of honoring his memory by educating and hopefully preventing other tragedies.

"I started the petition because I just felt powerless. There are signs that say no swimming, there are signs that say no jumping but they don’t say why," said Amaryllis.

The family has collected over 5,000 signatures for Zack’s law that would require educational signs warning of the dangers of cold water shock at popular swimming locations around the state.

Some of the information on the sign would include that cold water shock occurs in water that is 59 degrees or less and more likely to occur between October and April.

It also warns of the symptoms of cold water shock including cardiac arrest, gasping, fatigue and vertigo.

"I think if Zack saw this sign, I think he would’ve thought twice," said Amaryllis.

Rager is described to have been full of life with a passion for physical fitness and wrestling.

After high school, he was working while coaching at two different wrestling groups, Centralia Tigers Wrestling and Twin City Mat Cats.

"He was such a perfect angel. He was so caring and loving of other people," said Kimberly. "If everybody in this world could be like my son was, this world would be such an awesome place. He always put everybody before himself."

The family is hoping that a bill will be introduced during the next legislative session.