5-Year-Old Drowning Victim Identified


Authorities in Sioux Falls say a drowning victim at Falls Park was a 5-year-old girl from Iowa who was visiting Sioux Falls with her family.

Public Information Officer Sam Clemens said Maggie Jo Zaiger, of Audubon, IA, was with her family at about noon Sunday when she fell into the water while trying to reach out and touch the foam near a pedestrian bridge.

Officials say it took crews about 14 minutes to pull her from the water after receiving the 911 call. According to Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Brad Goodroad, first responders were at the scene within 4 minutes and recovered Zaiger from the water with 9 minutes of arriving. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Don Kearney, director of Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation, says the city will meet with firefighters and police about safety procedures at Falls Park. Similar discussions were held after two people died while trying to save a boy who fell into the water in March 2013.

From that safety review, the city placed new signs in the park to warn visitors about the dangers of the falls. Anchors were also installed by Sioux Falls Fire Rescue for first responders to install safety lines in case of a water rescue.

During the 2013 safety review, Kearney said that fences and barricades were discussed but not recommended for the area. The group felt that installing either would impede first responders during a water rescue.

“The other reality is that you don’t know to what extent that will actually keep people out. Kids like to climb, and is that a false sense of security to have a fence there?” Kearney said.

The review also ruled out any efforts to reduce or eliminate foam that builds around the rocks. It’s a process that Kearney says occurs naturally when phosphorus is agitated in the water, causing it to foam.

Goodroad strongly advises parents to keep children within arm’s reach when visiting Falls Park. And if someone falls into the water, he says witnesses shouldn’t jump in to rescue others and not to hesitate calling 911.


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