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Mom of Tacoma teen who drowned at Alder Lake: ‘Cliff diving is not safe’

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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

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.


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  • Ashley

    I am so sorry for the loss of your son, i was one of the people out there when we heard help… my husband and 8 different friends ran ans jumped into the water to help and get him out… we all tried to save this young man and i have two sons my self and i have talked to them about these things. … once again so sorry for a younh life taken so soon…

  • ash

    Friends of mine helped pull the first boy (wilbur) out. I hope this gets mentioned and he meets them and thanks them. They feel so bad they couldnt get both boys out.
    This is so sad.

  • Alayna Stover

    I lost a brother to a drowning as well! It's awful to see a life cut short! May God be with the family. Prayers for comfort and peace!

  • patriciasmathers3

    So sorry for your loss, it’s not the lakes fault, or the cliff’s, we never know what will happen in our journey through life.Please don’t blame our water for this loss, as there is no blame.We need to be aware wen going out to have fun, swimming in unknown places.please be prepared, life vests, flotation devices, there are no life guards on duty any were around here, we are in the woods, not a country club.share this with your children, an friends.Horribole things happen in water, this water is milkey, if you go under there is no finding you in time for help.I think this every time my 6 yr. Old is in that sorry for your loss, god bless you an your familys.

  • Andrew

    He didn’t drown cliff jumping. He drown swimming out with a log. A log is not a floatation device. The article should be called not knowing how to swim leads to drowning. Literally nothing to do with cliffs.

  • DumbRules4Loss

    Sorry for the loss. We all truely lost something when this young kid died from poor choice. Now the park staff got real strict about cliff jumping and you’re not allowed to go to these cliffs or jump off any cliffs at alder lake. The park staff will literally call the police on you. Pleasant valley cliffs are also the same way with the neighbors (who isn’t too nice). Then they will threaten to kick you out permanently.