Danger Beneath the Water: Teen turns tragedy into water safety lesson

zack wheelchair.jpg

"I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will walk again and be myself again,” Zack Moore said.

Zack Moore’s story has touched so many hearts here in the LC Valley. And tonight, we’re giving you the full story behind his accident, and a glimpse into his strong spirit. The 19-year-old Lewiston native, whose dive into the water at Hells Gate State Park left him paralyzed.

“I had just texted Zack about 5 minutes before that. We were going to unload some hay and I didn’t hear back from him,” Josh Moore, Zack’s father, explained.

July 5, 2018 started off as a normal day for Josh Moore, but what he didn’t know was that a phone call, lasting just seconds, was about to change his life.

“Saying we’re headed down to the beach. There’s been an accident. Zack’s been hurt pretty badly.” Josh said.

Not knowing the extent of his son’s injuries, Zack’s family rushed to Hells Gate State Park where they found Zack, conscious, but unable to move on a stretcher at Hidden Beach.

“How do you plan for such a tragic accident to happen?," Tara Moore, Zack's stepmother, said.

The 19-year-old once known as ‘Superman,’ a nickname given to him by his peers for his speed on the track, was now paralyzed from the neck down.

“It was a tough night. I really couldn’t explain how it felt. I didn’t know such heart ache could exist,” Josh said. “You know, to have your son laying there with a sound mind and a sound body, just not able to do anything is- it affects somebody greatly,” Josh said.

Zack had been jumping from Hidden Beach with his friends-a popular beach and a place where Zack said he’s jumped more than a hundred times before. But July 5, 2018, was different, he landed on something beneath the surface of the water and broke his neck.

He said that he wasn’t drinking nor was he under the influence of any drugs.

Zack, described as the jokester and all-around nice guy, would have to live up to his nickname and put on that Superman cape for his next chapter in life. He was headed to the Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, a rehabilitation center specializing in spinal cord and brain injuries.

“Several of the nurses and doctors at the Craig Hospital said Zack is a very rare case. They just don’t see this with his upbeat and his smile and he actually gives them a lot of hope," Josh said.

Zack was more than a thousand miles away from home and learning how to live life from a chair. Now he’s using his accident as a warning to others about water safety.

"It can be a place where you’ve never dove before, or a place you’ve dove thousands of times before just like me, but it’s just like-still, even if you dove there before just have to always check,” Zack said.

Fast-forward to a month after his accident and Zack is happy to report he now has some feeling in his toes and hands.

"I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will walk again and be myself again because it’s just that I’m going to fight my hardest until I do,” Zack said. “And things like that can take times. But I don’t care how long it takes. If it takes a year, two years, or 10 years it’s going to happen," he said.

Showing others that what’s remained the same throughout this entire ordeal is his strong spirit.

This is a tragedy that was totally preventable. Officials at Hells Gate State Park said Hidden Beach is not one of their official beaches and they don't suggest people going down there.

They want people to pay attention to a few water rules:

-Use a life jacket instead of floaties on kids.

- Always walk out to make sure where you're jumping in is deep enough.

-Know your surroundings.

-Swimmers and boaters don't mix.

Donation accounts have been set up at P1FCU and Umpqua Bank under 'The Moore Family Donation Fund.'

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