Mom of Tacoma teen who drowned at Alder Lake: ‘Cliff diving is not safe’
TACOMA — A local mother whose 18-year-old son drowned in Alder Lake on July Fourth is warning other parents and kids about the dangers of swimming in cold-water lakes without lifeguards.
Janice O’Neal says her son, Rashawn Hale-Moody, of Tacoma, and his friends were hanging out in a place they never should have been.
“Some people call it cliff diving. They were jumping off a cliff and he was jumping off,” she said.
Alder Lake is a popular spot where kids like to cliff dive, often recording each other and posting it on YouTube.com.
Wilbur Owensby, Hale-Moody’s friend, said he was swimming beside him on Friday.
“He got on a log and he swam across and when he got ready to come back, he was tired,” Owensby said, adding that they were about 75 yards to shore when his friend started yelling for help.
“I swam back, tried to save him, but he was pulling me down, too, so I just told him to keep treading, stay afloat, I’m coming back,” Owensby said.
By the time he was able to get help, it was too late. Hale-Moody was nowhere to be found.
“I cry every morning,” O’Neal said. “I think I just got sleep. This is a nightmare.”
Because of the conditions in the water, divers were not able to locate Hale-Moody’s body until Sunday afternoon.
“I told him, do not go cliff diving. Kids are going to be kids. They’re going to do what they want to do, but where they were, they shouldn’t have been,” she said.
O’Neal said she hopes others will understand the risks in the water and think twice before jumping in, and that parents will share her son’s story with their teenagers.
“Cliff diving is not safe. It is not safe. It doesn’t matter who good you swim, it’s not safe. The water is ice cold, so, be careful,” she said.
Hale-Moody’s friends plan to hold a candlelight vigil in his honor Saturday in Tacoma.