The family of a little girl who drowned in Falls Park, is now taking the city of Sioux Falls to court. A lawsuit filed by the young girl’s mother states the city had “actual knowledge of a deadly danger in the park.”
In March of this year, 5-year-old Maggie Zaiger fell into the water at the Sioux Falls landmark and lost her life. Now, her family is looking for changes they believe are years overdue.
“We were there for less than 10 minutes before she fell in. And no. I didn’t see any sign at all,” said Maggie’s mom, Courtney Jayne.
Courtney Jayne and her little girls were visiting the Falls for the first time when little Maggie went to touch some foam on the edge of the river. That’s when the little girl fell in and didn’t make it out alive.
“One of those things you never imagine you’d ever have to do. To pack up their stuff and put it away forever,” said Jayne.
Sadly this isn’t the first time lives have been lost at the tourist destination. Back in 2013 two people died while saving a little boy who fell in the water in the same area.
Attorney Brendan Johnson says part of the reason for this lawsuit against the city is to get their attention to take action.
“Unfortunately a court can’t do that. That’s really going to be up to our mayor and our city council to decide what’s appropriate. I think it’s clear. I think people in Sioux Falls recognize that what was there, being nothing, is not acceptable,” said Johnson.
Johnson says several other landmarks across the country have protective barriers when a hazard is present.
“I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we build a wall around Falls Park. But what we are saying is, let’s provide some notice; particularly when we have young children that repeatedly go to the same area and repeatedly go into the water. We can do something,” said Johnson.
Jayne feels it is her job now to prevent other families from this sort of pain, and to honor the vibrant, intelligent little girl she lost.
“Just if it can remind someone to say I love you before they leave the house, or give your kids a hug or whatever. I think that that would be something that would make Maggie really happy,” said Jayne.
The lawsuit filing does request $75,000 of compensation for Maggie’s family. However, Johnson says that’s just a starting point for any federal case. The actual amount will be determined once court proceedings get underway, which is not decided yet.