CHICAGO - The Chicago Park District is under growing pressure to put in place safety flotation rings at the city’s neighborhood beaches after another drowning this past weekend.
Currently, those rings are only in place along the Chicago River and in some of the boat harbors.
Halle Quezada is leading the campaign, after witnessing a drowning herself in 2018.
"I’ve been trying for three years now, working directly with the park district, talking to them, sending letters, having petitions circulated," Quezada said.
Quezada says she’s happy to be a thorn in the park district’s side if it will end up saving lives.
Three years ago, she watched a woman drown at Tobey Prinz Beach in Rogers Park. And on Sunday, a 19-year-old man drowned after jumping off a pier at almost the same spot, hours before lifeguards were on duty.
Witnesses say he was crying for help before going under.
"Bystanders are put in this position where you either watch someone die," Quezada said. "Or you risk your own life trying to help. And that shouldn’t happen. We should have something we can throw to them."
But the park district does not put safety flotation rings at neighborhood beaches, despite a park district sign advising people to throw a ring in the water in case there’s an emergency.
"It’s really infuriating," Quezada said. "We get, ‘we have signage so we don’t have life rings.’ Or we get, ‘well we will have to maintain them or we will be held liable if one’s not there.’"
More than 3,000 people have now signed Quezada‘s petition urging the park district to install the rings, which cost about a $100 apiece.
49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden expressed her frustration on Facebook after Sunday’s drowning.
"We have been asking for life rings at our lakeside parks for far too long," Hadden said. "There should have been life rings along that pier. There were people there that could have tossed the life ring to this person."
In a statement, a spokeswoman responds: "The Chicago Park District is currently exploring supplemental safety equipment for sanctioned swim locations."
The park district also says people should not swim when the lifeguards are not present, and they should check the flags for water conditions.
"It is such a no-brainer that in a weekend we had a couple dozen elected officials sign letters of support to the park district as well," Quezada said. "This is easy. It’s obvious, but it’s also morally imperative."