Body Recovered; Sioux Falls Crews Search for 2nd Victim
(SIOUX FALLS, SD) Sioux Falls rescue teams have found the body of 16-year-old Madison Wallace. She was one of two people who jumped into the Big Sioux River Thursday to save her 6-year old brother Garrett Wallace when they thought he fell in the water. Teams continue the search for 28-year-old Lyle Eagletail.
Falls Park in Sioux Falls is officially closed to the public as crews frantically dig through ice and foam. "We knew in this area, we would find them. We found her right in the same area we've been looking," says Jim Sideras, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief.
Sideras says emergency crews turned their rescue effort into a recovery early Friday morning. They determined the chances of survival seemed low because of the fast current, cold temperatures and heavy ice.
"In some cases it was 2 feet thick so we actually had to make a makeshift road into this park, bring in heavy equipment, remove the ice out. We actually brought in a specialized crane to break up ice we couldn't reach. And that's helped access the water for both a boat, and also divers that are in the water," says Sideras.
The 6-year-old boy was playing on the rocks underneath this bridge. Now it's still unclear whether he actually fell into the water or was just playing in the foamy area. Even still, two people jumped in to save him.
"When I saw him he looked wet but the foam here is so thick. I don't think we'll ever actually know what happened. It's very chaotic and like I said the first report isn't always correct," says Sideras.
The family of Lyle Eagletail was watching off in the distance and Sideras says, he had to break the news to the Wallace family.
"They, like anybody else, would be in a state of shock and we mourn their loss like it were our own because we're always trying to help save lives," says Sideras.
6-year-old Garrett is in safe hands, thanks to the heroic efforts of his sister and a stranger.
"At his age, I don't know if he comprehended what even happened because it was so quick," says Sideras.
This isn't the first time a drowning has happened in the Big Sioux River at Falls Park. Sideras says many people have tried swimming in the river, some tried canoeing the falls. All of those ended similarly to this most recent tragedy which is why he says keeping an eye on your kids is vitally important. "If someone does go into the water, your best response is to not go in after them because you put yourself in that same situation. Call 911 and be our best witness. We have walkways that are a significantly away from the water, not to get on the rocks, to watch your children, because things happen very quickly," says Sideras. And with children of her own, Micaela Greenfield says she takes extra precautions. "Whenever I'm out at the falls with my three year old, it's scary because he's always wanting to run toward that area where you can very easily slip in and fall. We make sure he's always holding our hand, especially if he's down by the falls like that. I was sad to hear when they turned it into a recovery mission instead of a rescue mission. I was hopeful that they would find them, just sad that they didn't and thoughts with those families."
Crews suspended search efforts at 8:00 PM Friday night. They'll start back up again Saturday morning at 8:00 AM. Lyle Eagletail is from Sioux Falls. The Wallace family is from Vermillion, South Dakota.
Reported by Heather Leigh. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.