Chicago resists putting life rings at risky lake piers

Updated 9/10/2021 1:09 PM

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Park District said it plans to put life rings along the Lake Michigan waterfront but only in areas that are considered safe to swim, upsetting the mother of a college student who drowned off a pier.

"I'm infuriated,' said Maria Diaz, whose son, Miguel Cisneros, drowned last month in the Rogers Park neighborhood.


'Don't they have kids; aren't they mothers, fathers? And how would they feel if (it were) their son?' Diaz said. "Because, believe me, you never think about this until it hits home. And it can happen to anyone.'

Cisneros, 19, drowned on Aug. 22, a few weeks before his planned departure for Columbia University in New York. A vigil for him was held Tuesday night.

Rogers Park residents have put life rings on the pier near where Cisneros died but they have been removed by the Park District, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Instead, the Park District is discussing ways to restrict access to the piers while installing life rings elsewhere where it's 'safe to swim,' general counsel Timothy King said.

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At a Wednesday meeting, a law professor said the Park District could be exposing itself to liability if life rings are placed in other locations. Water safety specialist Gerry Dworkin said the rings can be hard to throw accurately from a beach, though they can be effective if dropped to a struggling swimmer near a pier.

At least 78 people have drowned this year in the Great Lakes, including 36 in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Not all Lake Michigan deaths were in Illinois.

'With drowning, flotation is the key. ... Because when you give them something that floats, you are giving them hope of survival. You are giving them their only chance to live," said Dave Benjamin, the group's director.

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