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

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two weeks after her son drowned at Toby Prinz Beach, Maria Diaz returned to memorialize him. There are still no life rings at the pier.

"I didn't want to walk down the pier," Maria Diaz said. "This is the first time I'm here. I just got anxious by looking at people on the lake."

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

Bystanders said her son Miguel Cisneros struggled, then went under just feet from the pier.

"She said she literally saw him three to six feet away, and unfortunately there was nothing that could be tossed at him," Diaz said.

RELATED: 2nd life ring installed by residents along Chicago lakefront after Rogers Park drowning removed

"For many years, residents along the Rogers Park lakefront have been advocating for more water safety measures," said 49th Ward Alderman Maria Hadden.

RELATED: Lake Michigan drowning, water rescues renew calls for life rings along Chicago beaches

Cisneros was 19 and headed off to college on a full ride to Columbia University in New York City before his death. He's one of 1,024 people Lake Michigan experts say have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010.

"We've been advocating for life rings since 2010, and more specifically since 2018 right here on these beaches," said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. "There were supposed to be life rings this summer, but they called it off."
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Residents of the neighborhood have put out their own life rings at the pier more than once, only for the Park District to remove them in a matter of hours.

"The lawyer for the Park District Board said it's in the best interest to do nothing because it might increase liability," Benjamin said.

"To me, that's dumb," Diaz said. "It's like, 'I don't put a fire alarm in a school because it invites the kids to put on a fire.'"

So far, the city has only restored warning signs along the pier. For Cisneros' family, and the next potential victim's, that's not nearly enough. They contend the life rings are the difference between life and death.

The Park District has said it's looking at adding more equipment at sanctioned swimming areas, and said it removed the rings in Rogers Park because they weren't authorized.
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