Family Hoping For Best As Teen Faces Paralysis After Shallow Dive

OCEAN CITY — A West Virginia family is hoping and praying for the best and expecting the worst this week after a 19-year-old family member dove head first into the bay at 25th Street and had to be airlifted to a Baltimore hospital with neck and back trauma and paralysis.

For the second time in less than a week, a teenager dove head first into the bay and suffered traumatic injuries, this time at 25th Street on Tuesday afternoon. Around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the Ocean City Police Department and the Ocean City Fire Department responded to the area of 25th Street and the bay for a reported diving incident.

The investigation revealed Cody Owens, 19, dove head first into the bay at 25th Street. Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 4 responded and transported the victim to a Baltimore area hospital with severe neck and back trauma and partial paralysis.

On Wednesday, Owens’ stepfather Stephen Litten said the victim had some movement in his upper extremities, but had paralysis below the waist. Litten said Owens was alert and responsive and was going into surgery on Wednesday morning with the hopes of restoring some of his movement.

“With his left arm, he can’t move his fingers and can’t make a fist,” said a distraught Litten on Wednesday. “He can move his right arm up and down, but can’t move his fingers or make a fist. He can’t move his legs and he’s in surgery right now.”

Litten said the diving accident and subsequent paralysis was devastating for Owens and his family. Owens recently completed his first year of college and was ready to enter the military in less than a week. He was in Ocean City for a few days before entering military service.

“It’s just so hard to see him like this because he is so full of life,” he said. “He’s been the best son any stepdad could ever ask for.”

Litten said even in his condition after the tragic diving accident on Tuesday, Owens was thinking only about others.

“He just gave me an iTunes card on Father’s Day and when I first got to the hospital, the first thing he asked me is if I was using the gift he gave me,” he said. “He’s just a smart, caring kid who cares about others and he made a horrible decision.”

As of mid-week, it was uncertain the extent to which Owens could recover.

“Under his circumstances, he asked the doctors if he was going to be able to walk again,” he said. “When they told him they were not sure, it was like a punch in the stomach for me. I just couldn’t believe this vibrant, healthy kid might not have the chance to do all of the things he wanted to in life.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.