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A Petaluma teenager was paralyzed in an swimming accident this week in Lake Tahoe when he dove into shallow water and broke his neck.

Danny Cox, 18, a 2010 graduate of Petaluma High School and a talented long jumper on the track team, was on vacation with friends when the accident occurred at a South Lake Tahoe beach Tuesday afternoon.

His mother, Maureen McGowan, the owner of Graffiti Restaurant in downtown Petaluma, said Thursday that her son told her he did a flat dive in water that was two to three feet deep.

"A wave from a passing boat came, he felt the water push his head down into the sand, and he couldn't move after that" his mother said he told her.

"He kept repeating he didn't do anything stupid," she said.

The dive left Cox paralyzed from the chest down, although he still has feeling in his arms and hands.

"He broke his neck and the bone pushed on the spinal cord," she said, adding that he never lost consciousness.

There were some vacationing doctors on the beach with their families who assisted in stabilizing Cox.

He was airlifted to Renown Hospital in Reno, and remained in the intensive care unit.

His prognosis remains uncertain, according to McGowan.

"He should regain full function of his arms," she said.

But for now, "he's on morphine and he's scared."

McGowan has been at his side since rushing there Tuesday.

Other family members, including his father Chris Cox, have also been at the hospital.

Danny has two younger brothers and two older sisters.

His spirits were bolstered Thursday by visits from Petaluma friends who drove to Reno. He also has been buoyed by text messages and missives from wellwishers to his Facebook page.

"I don't want those to end. Today he asked me to read them," McGowan said.

Members of the Petaluma Police Department also called, because they remembered him from the high school "Every 15 minutes" program, which promotes responsible behavior and safe drinking.

Cox was planning to attend Santa Rosa Junior College beginning next week, and was interested in a career as a firefighter.

He had worked bussing tables at his mother's white- table-cloth restaurant, known for its California Mediterranean cuisine.

Cox is expected to be transferred to an acute care facility next week and will probably remain there for a couple weeks before he goes to a spinal care rehabilitation facility.

The family is hoping that will be much closer to home, possibly at a Kaiser facility in Vallejo, where "he can be close to his support system," McGowan said.

The accident that befall Cox is the second such tragedy to hit a Sonoma County teenager in recent years. In June 2008, 18-year-old Honza Ripa dove into shallow water in the Russian River and suffered paralysis.

North Coast killers on death row


Robert Scully
Age: 58
Year arrived: 1997
Crime: Murdered Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Trejo

Richard Allen Davis
Age: 62
Year arrived: 1996
Crime: Murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas

Ramon Salcido
Age: 55
Year arrived: 1990
Crime: Murdered seven people, including his wife and two daughters


Jerrold Johnson
Age: 54
Year arrived: 2000
Crime: Home invasion-murder of 76-year-old Ellen Salling

Gerald Stanley
Age: 71
Year Arrived: 1984
Crime: Convicted of killing two of his wives

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