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June 03, 2014 07:00 AM

Dangerous Beauty At The Falls

Sioux Falls, SD

Monday was the ideal day for many people to spend time at the falls, and there will be many more like this in the months to come. Yet, with the beauty lies a very visible danger.

A day after rainfall for the record books, Falls Park is full of people looking to admire one of the city's natural attractions.

"You look in the background and it's flowing really high and it's really beautiful and tremendous right at this time," Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Division Chief Jeff Helm said.

The sight of the falls is something people all over the country take in each year, but the beauty comes with a potentially deadly pitfall.

"Sometimes it tempts them to get a little closer than makes us comfortable. Obviously, it's very dangerous if you get close. You can slip, fall in. The repercussions of those things makes us all a little nervous," Helm said.

That danger wasn't lost on visitors like Joe Vos from Des Moines, who brought his family to the falls for the first time. One of the first things he noticed was his ability to get right up to the water.

"There's definitely not any safeguards or whatever of getting too close, but we were careful." Joe Vos said.

This year, the Parks and Recreation Department did add more signs warning people to keep their distance, but there were still some who were right next to the rushing current.

"There's lots of other people that were a lot closer, so we basically stayed back further than some. Just kind of followed what the crowd was doing," Vos said.

A year ago, two people lost their lives after falling in the water, but this year, with the new signs and added safety harnesses along the walls, Helm hopes for an uneventful summer.

"Luckily, knock on wood, this year we haven't had any such cases right here in Sioux Falls. Obviously, they've had some tragedies around in the region, and that should heed the warning for everybody that there's inherent risk that everybody needs to be aware of," Helm said.

Whether you're from Sioux Falls or from out of town, it might be important to remain vocal if you want to keep others safe near the falls as well.

"If you see that they're getting a little closer, people from this region would realize that they're getting a little too close for safety, just mention something to them. I'm sure they'll take your warnings to heart," Helm said.

Last year there was talk about a fence around the falls. Helm says that just isn't a practical option. If you do see someone that has fallen into the water, call 911 immediately.

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