The state House Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on state Rep. Peter Abbarno’s bill, House Bill 1004, on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m.
Called “Zack’s Law,” the bill would require government agencies to erect signs warning readers of drowning hazards in honor of 18-year-old Zachary Lee Rager, who drowned in the Chehalis River after experiencing cold-water shock.
On March 23, 2021, a sunny day that saw temperatures reach 72 degrees, Rager told his friends he wanted to jump from the railroad trestle bridge along the Willapa Hills Trail, something he had done multiple times before without issue. But, as he began swimming back to shore, Rager started calling out to his friends for help because of the cold water. As his friends attempted to help him, his body went limp and he drowned.
"This measure will help inform the public about the very real dangers posed by diving or jumping into cold water," said Abbarno, R-Centralia, the bill's sponsor. "If Zack's Law saves even a single life, it's worth passing."
Under the bill, signs would be erected when replacing currently existing signs or erecting new signs near dangerous water hazards. Signs would be placed at the same time upgrades are made to bridges and other water-adjacent infrastructure in order to minimize costs to taxpayers. The bill would also allow the public to donate money to the state government to help erect signs in locations known to attract people to potentially hazardous waterways.
"I encourage citizens to participate in the legislative process," Abbarno said. "Let's get Zack's Law over the finish line and help prevent another tragedy."
The bill was previously passed by the House Transportation Committee during the 2022 legislative session, but failed to advance out of the House Rules Committee before an important legislative deadline.
To view or provide public testimony at the House Transportation Committee’s public hearing, visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/csi/house. To comment on HB 1004, visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill/1004. The Transportation Committee’s public hearing will be streamed live at https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2023011494.