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'Zack's Law' proposal hopes to save young lives after family's tragedy

Zack Rager drowned in the Chehalis River two years ago. His family hopes this legislation could keep others from a similar fate.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Zack Rager's family hopes to keep others from the tragedy they suffered in 2021 with a House proposal they're advocating for.

HB 1004 would require a sign to be placed at the bridge where Rager jumped into the Chehalis River on March 23, 2021. Rager was with friends and had jumped into the river from that bridge numerous times, but he drowned after the Lewis County Coroner determined the teen suffered cold water shock. 

"If I can leave this legacy for Zack in Washington... and it saves somebody's life, my son didn't die in vain," said Kimberly Hines, Zack's mother.

His body started to shut down seconds after hitting the water, which was likely below 50 degrees, said Hines.

”I had never heard of cold water shock until I lost my son,” a tearful Hines told state Senators during a previous legislative hearing on the bill.

HB 1004 also would create a path for governments to work with individuals and communities to install signs warning of the dangers of cold water shock drowning at appropriate locations.

"It will save somebody's life, I know it will," said Kimberly Hines.

If passed, it would be known as “Zack’s Law.”

The statewide program cost for cold-water shock drowning signs would be $21,000 a year, said Rep. Peter Abbarno.

Abbarno, R-Lewis County, said in addition to installing a sign on the Chehalis River, the bill adds language to warning signs already being replaced at existing locations and new construction near known drowning dangers.

"For us to be able to send that warning to give one person maybe pause, to maybe not jump in, and to think about that danger that might be in there, I think it's worth it," said Abbarno.

The bill passed unanimously out of the House Transportation Committee and now awaits debate on the House floor.

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