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March 17, 2013 10:10 PM

SF Fire Rescue Urges Water Safety After Drownings

Sioux Falls, SD

The deadly incident at Falls Park, taking the lives of two people attempting to rescue a young boy from the frigid Big Sioux River, raises awareness of water safety as we head into spring.

"It's fast moving water, it can be dangerous when you get close to the water, you just have to have that in mind when you're near the water," Sioux Falls Fire Division Chief Jeff Helm said.

Words of warning, one day after rescue crews wrap up an extensive search to find the bodies of 28-year-old Lyle Eagle Tail and 16-year-old Madison Wallace from the depths of the Big Sioux River.

On Thursday, Wallace's six-year-old brother disappeared into the river's thick foam at Falls Park and the two went in to save him.

And while drownings like this are fairly rare in South Dakota, Helm offers advice he hopes saves lives.

"There's not set rule that says if its fast water you should be doing it this way, if its open water, like a lake, you should do it this way," Helm said.

But if someone around you goes under water, Helm says try to avoid the urge to go in after them, but instead throw a floatation device or something they can grab on to and pull them to shore.

If that isn't an option, pay special attention to where they went under and immediately call for help.

"I know in the heat of the moment its tough to realize that, but we come on scene, 911, they're going to want to know where that area was because that's going to be a big key on where we can start our watch and hopefully have a quick rescue that way," Helm said.

But Helm says the single most important thing you and your family can do to stay safe it to avoid getting too close to water, and watch your step around rocks that may be slippery.

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