Mother: Iowa girl's drowning in Sioux Falls happened in seconds

Maggie Jo Zaiger of Audubon, Iowa, had reached out to touch the foam near some waterfalls when she slipped into the Big Sioux River in Falls Park near a pedestrian bridge Sunday, police said.

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 12:13 PM
Updated: Mar 19, 2018 4:54 PM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — An Iowa woman said her 5-year-old daughter drowned in just seconds after falling into a river during a family visit to a popular park in Sioux Falls.

Maggie Jo Zaiger of Audubon, Iowa, had reached out to touch the foam near some waterfalls when she slipped into the Big Sioux River in Falls Park near a pedestrian bridge Sunday, police said.

The girl's mother, Courtney Jayne, said she did not know that her daughter would suddenly decide to lean over and touch the pile of foam.

"It wasn't that we weren't paying attention," Jayne told the Argus Leader on Monday. "There were seven of us. It literally happened in 30 seconds. ...There was nothing we could do, and it was horrible."

The family had come to South Dakota with a friend and had been in Sioux Falls for a few days. The park was a last-minute stop for the family before the trip home.

The drowning happened not far from where two other people drowned in 2013.

Sioux Falls parks and recreation director Don Kearney said after the 2013 deaths that the city upgraded its caution signs to warn adults to keep close watch on young children, among other things. Kearney said the foam is a naturally occurring phenomenon created by phosphorus and the agitated water.

The city considered installing barricades near the falls, but felt that would create a false sense of security, Kearny said.

"They felt like it would impede public safety's ability to respond quickly, to have to remove fence," Kearny told KELO.com . But he said fencing will be part of a safety review following the weekend drowning.

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