From drownings at Falls Park to an unsolved case to a devastating blizzard, 2013 was a year filled with some unforgettable moments.
In March of 2013, a tragic scene unfolded at Falls Park as two people drowned while trying to save a young boy.
16-year-old Madison Wallace of Vermillion went into the river to try and rescue her six-year-old brother, Garrett, who had disappeared in the thick foam. Another man, 28-year-old Lyle Eagle Tail of Sioux Falls, saw the crisis unfold and went into the water as well. Both Madison and Eagle Tail drowned, but Garrett survived.
In April, Mother Nature made big news as an ice storm brought down thousands of trees and branches in the Sioux Falls area. The heavy, ice-coated limbs knocked out power to some families for days and damaged vehicles. It took months for city crews and volunteers to clean up all the debris in an effort that became known as "Operation Timber Strike".
2013 was a big year for KELOLAND TV as we celebrated our 60th Anniversary of broadcasting. All year we looked back at some of the biggest stories that shaped our lives over the past six decades.
Also in 2013, law enforcement ramped of their efforts to crack down on sex trafficking in the state. The Division of Criminal Investigation allowed our cameras exclusive access behind the scenes as agents conducted several undercover sting operations to try and catch sexual predators looking for sex online.
"I wish I could describe them to you. These people can be our neighbors; people we work with. It would be hard to identify who these people are who may have this fixation on children or using children for sexual acts, by walking down the street. You wouldn't identify someone like that who has this perpetrator life that they keep hidden from perhaps their own family members," DCI Director Bryan Gortmaker said.
The new Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls began to take shape. Although not complete, the city wasted no time selling luxury suites and other sponsorships in record time. The new facility will open in the fall of 2014.
Speaking of basketball, the Pentagon opened its doors for the very first time and played host to some big time NCAA Division I basketball. The new facility has six basketball courts, including the vintage style heritage court that seats over 3,000 fans.
In September, investigators got a big break in one of the state's best known cold cases. Pam Jackson and Sherri Miller disappeared in 1971. The Vermillion teens were on their way to a party and were last seen driving a 1960 Studebaker. Investigators searched for the girls and the car for years, and at one point, they even charged a man in connection with the disappearance. The charges were later dropped.
Then the missing vehicle turned up in a creek, less than a mile from where the girls were headed. The Attorney General told us the car was in third gear, which is as fast as a Studebaker could go.
He says that's more evidence that Jackson and Miller were the victims of a car crash, not a crime.
In October, old man winter made an early arrival to western South Dakota as a devastating blizzard buried residents in the Black Hills and killed thousands of livestock.
Also in October, Sioux Falls made national headlines when a two-year-old boy died of injuries he suffered after allegedly being abused by his mother's boyfriend. We later learned the boy was the son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson made a trip to Sioux Falls to be at his son's bedside before the child died. 27-year-old Joseph Patterson is charged with 2nd degree murder in the case.
Former state Secretary of Tourism and State Development Richard Benda committed suicide in the fall. We later learned he was being investigated for double dipping on state trips and diverting a half million dollars to a program that was tied to the Northern Beef Plant in Aberdeen. The plant filed for bankruptcy and was later sold at auction to a company from California.
And just this month, former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler decided to take another run at politics by announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, only this time as an Independent.
A decline in pheasants and the Legislature's ban on cell phone use by young drivers were a couple of other big stories in 2013.