The city of Sioux Falls in South Dakota is being sued in federal court after a 5-year-old Iowa girl drowned at its busiest park last spring.

Attorney Brendan Johnson alleges that the city failed to provide adequate safety precautions at Falls Park, where Maggie Zaiger drowned after falling from the river bank rocks into the water on March 18, according to

Johnson is representing Zaiger’s mother, Courtney Jayne and is pursuing damages from the city.  Cases filed in federal court require a minimum of $75,000 worth of damages.

In the lawsuit, Johnson argues that the city of Sioux Falls in South Dakota ignored previous recommendations to establish barriers to better distinguish where the quartzite rock in the park ends and the water of the Big Sioux River begins.


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“In terms of other suggestions that have previously been made to the city, things like fencing would keep children away from the falls,” Johnson said. “It’s particularly important in particular seasons. When Maggie died, we know that’s when Falls Park is particularly dangerous.”

There have been over 10 deaths and dozens of rescues at Falls Park since 1980, making it the state’s most dangerous park.

“Long before March 18, 2018, the Defendant had actual knowledge of a deadly danger in the park involving the river – a danger that many park visitors would not recognize,” the complaint, obtained by the Leader read. “During spring runoff, the river’s heavy flow generates mountainous foam that looks like snow and can reach far onto the grounds beside the river, obscuring the river’s edge.”

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As of 2018, Sioux Falls had an estimated population of 183,200 and is the largest city in the state of South Dakota. Falls Park is a public park located in north central Sioux Falls.