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Man Paralyzed While Cliff Jumping at Blue Hole

HOPPER, Ark.- A Montgomery County man is sharing his story after an injury that left him paralyzed while cliff jumping.  It happened at the Blue Hole in Hopper. 

It's a beautiful, peaceful place that almost looks like a painting, but there's also a hidden danger.

"I feel like I was spared that day," says Tommy Hughes.  

Hughes was at the Blue Hole to cool off with his kids that Sunday in May, but their plans veered off course after Tommy decided to try cliff jumping.

"I landed on a rock ledge just underneath the water," says Hughes.

A split second decision that drastically changed his life.

"It was the weirdest sensation I've ever had in my life," says Hughes, "like I just felt my spine crushing." 

Hughes knew immediately he was paralyzed.  He managed to swim to the other side using just his upper body.  He was then pulled out of the water and driven until he could be flown to a hospital.

"This was my very first time ever jumping off a cliff or bluff and this happened to me."

He shattered some vertebrae and almost severed his spinal cord, which would've killed him.  Hughes says despite signs that are posted everywhere warning against jumping and diving people do it all the time.

"Everybody thinks it's okay, nothing's going to happen," says Hughes, "but you never know."

After weeks of emotional struggles, surgery and physical therapy, his new mission is to share his story in the hopes of preventing at least one person from ending up like him.

"One second of action that you're getting jumping off of there into the water, is it worth your life?"

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