By Tia Lynn Ivey
A local grieving family is telling their story in hopes of educating others about the dangers of diving into lakes. It’s been one year since the Hall family set out to have a relaxing day on the serene waters of Lake Oconee, but the day ended in unimaginable tragedy instead. On July 7, 2018 Charles Tyler Hall, the 21-year-old son of Karen and Wade Hall, unknowingly dove into a shallow portion of the lake near the Sugar Creek Marina. He sustained three cervical breaks in his neck and later suffered a stroke that damaged his brain stem before he died on July 10, 2018–just a few days shy of his 22nd birthday.
When Tyler first emerged from the water shouting for help, his parents, his sister Jess Lawson, brother-in-law Brian Lawson, and his young nephews had no idea that Tyler’s injuries would prove to be fatal. After waiting hours for rescue, Tyler was airlifted to a hospital to undergo surgery. He died surrounded by his family and loved ones. His family described him as a young man with a “spirited personality” who formed “passionate friendships” with others. Tyler grew up in Madison and graduated from Morgan County High School in 2014. He had been working as an electrical apprentice with A&B Electric. Family and friends rallied together to raise over $15,000 to pay for Tyler’s funeral. Karen and Wade Hall have spent the last year grieving the loss of their son. Now that summer has rolled around again and the one year anniversary of Tyler’s passing has arrived, the Halls want to use their story to educate other families about the dangers of diving.
“It happens more than you think,” said Karen Hall. “We don’t want any other family to go through what we went through because it is a nightmare.”
July is the peak of the summer season and, unsurprisingly, the month when most diving accidents happen, according to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which compiled 10 years of diving accidents treated at the Shepherd Center to push the “The Don’t Dive Go In Feet First” campaign.
“Diving is the fourth leading cause of paralyzing spinal cord injury. We believe it’s one of the most preventable,” said a Shepherd Center spokesperson. “We want to make people aware that diving is simply not worth the risk.”
According to the Shepherd Center, the vast majority of diving accident victims–89 percent–are males. Over half of diving accident victims are under the age of 30.
Diving into lakes and rivers are particularly dangerous because depth is hard to measure, as well as the presence of rocks and other hard surfaces due to muddied waters.
“How important is it to you to dive? I suspect it’s less important than being able to walk, feed yourself and go to the bathroom on your own–all things you risk losing when you dive,” said Emma Harrington, director of Injury Prevention at the Shepherd Center.
“Remember that a single dive can change your life forever. We want 2019 to be free of diving injuries. Help spread the word and always enter the water feet first.”
Before her Tyler’s diving accident, Karen Hall had no idea how serious the risks could be.
“I never thought about it. We have been out on the water with my kids and our families our whole lives.” said Hall. “My whole point with this is you just never know how deep it is. There are so many kids on that lake that aren’t thinking about it. I understand that, they’re kids. We didn’t think about it either. I never dreamed anything like this would happen to us but it did and it can happen to anyone.”
The Halls haven’t returned to the lake and sold the family boat since Tyler’s death.
“It’s just too many bad memories,” said Karen. “This has been a rough week for us. But if we can help prevent this happening to another family, we want to do that.”
The Halls are grateful for how the community has reached out to them during this time of grief.
“The outpouring from Tyler’s friend, our friends and family has just been overwhelming,” said Karen. “We couldn’t get through this without them. They have carried us through this and we thank God for all of them.”