Volunteers Lead Renewed Search for Body of Drowned Centralia Teen

Chehalis River: Volunteers Look to Bring Closure for Family and Friends of Zach Hines-Rager


Volunteer divers and community members have organized a renewed search for Zach Hines-Rager’s body after local law enforcement called off their search efforts last week.

A YouTube content creator who goes by “Sam Sam the Adventure Man” who is a diver specializing in vehicle recovery and missing persons cases posted a video on April 1 asking for local divers and other volunteers to help search the Chehalis River Monday, April 5.

Sam and the family posted that they had enough volunteers for Monday’s search and informed the public that access to the site would be limited to immediate family and to those directly helping with the search.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the Thurston County Dive Team ended their two-day search for Hines-Rager’s body on March 24 due to dangerous river conditions, according to a statement by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities put in a request for additional divers through Washington State Emergency Management Division, but due to a lack of availability and the conditions on the Chehalis River, no additional resources were granted, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A swift water team will begin searching again next week, and the Thurston County Dive Team will return in two weeks, the sheriff’s office stated Monday.

The temporary absence of emergency responders didn’t stop local search efforts.

In the following week, volunteers went out onto the river in their own boats and marked locations where Hines-Rager’s body could be so that divers could come back and search. Some used sonar devices to see objects below the surface.

Joining Sam Sam the Adventure Man in Monday’s search were Corey Cooper of Cooper’s Amputee Lifestyle, Jared Leisek of Adventures with Purpose, Jim Baker, Jefferson Greenwell of Kraken Diving and Jim Minor. Big T BBQ was on site to help supervise and to feed the divers during the search.

Sam Sam the Adventure Man joined YouTube in April 2017 and currently has 69.9K subscribers. Updates on the search effort are being posted to his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100039796123957.

Zach Hines-Rager and three friends were reportedly on the Willapa Hills Trail crossing the Chehalis River when they went onto a nearby railroad trestle bridge and Hines-Rager reportedly jumped in. He resurfaced and had started swimming to the bank when he called out to his friends for help due to the cold temperature of the water. His friends attempted to rescue him, but were unable to get Hines-Rager to shore. He is believed to have drowned after experiencing cold water shock.

A petition started after Hines-Rager’s death to invest in signage and education at cold-water recreation sites in Washington that informs people of the dangers of cold water shock had 2,820 signatures as of press time. It is accessible online at http://chng.it/FXjPTPHs.