Police identify girl who drowned at Falls Park
Authorities have identified the girl who died after falling into the river at Falls Park over the weekend.
Five-year-old Maggie Jo Zaiger of Audobon, Iowa, died Sunday, according to police spokesman Sam Clemens.
Zaiger fell into the water as she reached to touch the foam that forms on the banks of the Big Sioux River, Clemens said. Emergency crews eventually pulled her from the water downstream, but were unable to resuscitate her.
Director of Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Don Kearney said city officials are examining what security measures are needed to make the area safer. The city placed signs in the area following a double drowning in 2013.
“Our condolences go out to the family of this little girl and everyone else affected by this tragedy,” Kearney said in a press release. “Public safety remains the top priority at Falls Park and throughout our park system.”
He said safety experts have advised that erecting additional walls or fences along the water at Falls Park would severely impede potential rescue efforts.
However, anchor points have been installed in the park by drilling small holes in strategic quartzite rock formations. Anchors can then be attached to the holes and provide additional safety lines for rescuers if needed.
Kearney said officials from the City, the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance and safety experts assessed the current safety measures at Falls Park in 2016 and determined they were consistent with industry standards.
Sioux Falls city councilor writes open letter to mayor and administration following drowning of 5-year-old girl at Falls Park:
Dear Mayor Huether and Director Kearney,
I am writing to voice my concerns about the tragedy at the Falls. Citizens have also been expressing their concerns with adequate safety while preserving the beauty and access to the falls.
I am urging your support of increased signage and a temporary barrier during the spring season due to the dangerous foam and slippery terrain at the site of the three tragic deaths. I will support appropriating funds to make these safeguards a reality, along with any effort to clean out the foam in the area.
A temporary spring fence could be done in a way to enhance the beauty ,while adding extra protection to visitors.
Our prayers go out to the family of visitors who lost their beloved daughter. Let us work as a community to ensure that this does not happen again.
Thank you for your consideration,