Mother suing Chicago Park District after son's drowning in Lake Michigan off Pratt Pier

Karen Jordan Image
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
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The mother of a 19-year-old who drowned in Lake Michigan has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chicago Park District.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The mother of a 19-year-old who drowned in Lake Michigan has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chicago Park District alleging a lack of signage and protective safety devices.

SEE ALSO | Rogers Park drowning victim memorialized as life ring battle continues with Chicago Park District

Miguel Cisneros would have been a couple of weeks into his sophomore year at Columbia University, where he planned to study law. But his mother, Maria Diaz, said she now lives with the reality that she will never see him again.

"First I thought, I'll pretend he took off for New York and he's doing what he wants," Diaz said. "Then the night hits and I don't get that phone call saying, 'hey, mama bear, how're you doing?' And it breaks me down."

Cisneros drowned in August after jumping off Pratt Pier to go for a swim. After he died, Rogers Park residents took it upon themselves to place life rings - at least four - at the popular pier where swimming is prohibited. Each one was removed by the Chicago Park District.

"When weighing the option between the lives of others or their liability, the park district chose to cover their own butts and do nothing," said attorney Jeff Kroll.

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

Kroll is the attorney for Maria Diaz, who is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the park district. She said her son's death could have been prevented if there was a life ring at the pier, and is on a crusade to have life rings installed along the city's entire waterfront.

"I feel I'm carrying on his legacy of helping other families not to go through this tragedy that we're facing right now," Diaz said.

Just last week, the park district reversed course and installed a life ring at the pier and announced plans to install life rings at all staffed beaches.

Diaz's attorney said the action is too little, too late, and hopes the lawsuit will spur more change.

"This was a recipe for disaster," Kroll said. "They buried their head. They wanted nothing to do with this and it took yet another drowning death for them to do something."