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South Dakota teen drowns rescuing brother

March 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A noble act turned tragic for a South Dakota teen who jumped into a foamy river to save her young brother. He survived, but she drowned.

Crews recovered the body of 16-year-old Madison Leigh Wallace from the icy Big Sioux River at Falls Park Friday. The teenager died trying to save her 6-year-old brother Garrett after he fell into the water Thursday night. The boy was safely pulled ashore.

Authorities are still searching for the body of Lyle Francis Eagletail, a Good Samaritan who tried to help the boy and his sister.

"We're still looking for the young man that went in. We still have some issues now with the water, we still have ice that we have moved out," said Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras.

Witnesses say 28-year-old Eagletail entered the freezing, foamy water and had a grip on the boy, but he slipped and disappeared into the rushing river.

"He had the kid with him, but he just slipped," a witness said.

A friend of Eagletail's who witnessed the tragedy, 21-year-old Napoleon Ducheneaux, said his friend was holding onto the girl and boy by their hands before his hands began sliding. Then, he just "slipped and disappeared," Ducheneaux told The Associated Press late Thursday.

The cascading falls are a popular tourist attraction in Sioux Falls. More than half a million people visit Falls Park every year, which is not fenced off to visitors. The boy had been climbing on slippery quartzite rocks at the edge of the river at the park.

The water temperature is about 32 degrees in late winter. Firefighters have had to break up pieces of ice and blow away several feet of deep foam churned up by the strong current.

"Last night, keep in mind, we had awful lot of water flowing. The water was higher, and so that created an area for someone to move quite a distance," Sideras said.

Up until Friday, there had been three drownings near the falls in the last 16 years. The park was closed Friday as crews continued their recovery effort.

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