Family on mission to install life rings on Chicago lakefront after teen drowns at Rogers Park beach

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Family demands life rings at Chicago piers after son's drowning
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Miguel Cisneros, 19, drowned at Toby Prinz Beach in Rogers Park. His family says a life ring could have saved him.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The mother of a teen who recently drowned in Lake Michigan says her son's death could have been avoided if there were life rings at Chicago's lakefront piers.

In fact, after 19-year-old Miguel Cisneros died, people in the neighborhood installed a flotation life ring on their own at the pier at Toby Prinz Beach in Rogers Park, only to have the Park District take it down.

Residents who live near there were livid when they found out nothing replaced that life ring. Cisnero's mother, Maria Diaz, is now making her son's drowning a catalyst for change along the lakefront.

"He had a big brain but a bigger heart," she said of her son. "And he proved that yesterday at his funeral services."

Diaz buried her son Monday. She said he was an excellent swimmer, but he drowned after jumping off a Rogers Park pier.

"He was pretty close. I heard from the bystanders that were there that if something was there to be thrown at him, mostly likely he would have been saved," Diaz said.

Cisneros was a graduate of St. Ignatius Prep, and had a full ride to Columbia University in New York City. His family said he was an incredible young man.

"He was the pride and joy of our family," said cousin Marlene Chaidez. "I looked up to him. He was younger than me, and I looked up to him. And I wanted to be as great as my Mikey was."

"Thinking of him screaming for help breaks our hearts," said Hernan Saucedo, cousin. "Especially know that there was people right there that could have thrown something, if there was anything there that could save his life."

"It's the third one here in the last few years," said Jim Ginderske, Rogers Park resident.

After Cisneros drowned, he'd had enough. So Friday, Ginderske bough a life ring and put it on the pier himself. By Monday, it was gone. It took the Chicago Park District less than 48 hours to take it down.

"I really thought that, OK, you're going to take out the unsanctioned one, even though it's Coast Guard approved," Ginderske said. "They did not replace it, I understand. I don't understand not replacing it with something of their own. They left nothing."

"Oh, infuriated," Diaz said. "I was shaking when I found out."

Diaz is now on a mission for her oldest son.

"I am going to push forward. We have a village. Miguel was loved, not just by me his mother, the whole community. We are going to move forward and get a law passed where the city needs to take action," she said.

The Park District said the life ring was not authorized by the district. A spokesman is saying they are currently exploring "supplemental safety equipment for sanctioned swim locations."