CHICAGO - Maria Diaz’s 19-year-old son drowned last week at a Rogers Park beach, where residents have been trying for years to get the Chicago Park District to install flotation rings.
And when a resident installed one on his own over the weekend, the park district took it down.
Diaz says her 19-year-old son Miguel Cisneros Jr. was just beginning a promising life.
"He loved the water. And he was very strong and athletic. A very strong swimmer," she said.
Last week, the St. Ignatius graduate jumped off Pratt Pier in Rogers Park to go swimming when he was suddenly pulled under just feet from the pier. A crowd of onlookers watching helplessly.
"They heard him screaming for help. ‘Help, I’m drowning! Help I’m drowning!" said Diaz.
Cisneros is the third person to drown at this beach in the last three years, which is why Rogers Park residents have been trying to get the Park District to install life rings.
But the district has refused, citing legal liability and maintenance issues.
Frustrated by all the drownings, Rogers Park activist Jim Ginderske on Friday spent $400 out of his own pocket and installed a life ring on a tower at the end of the pier.
On Monday morning, a park district crew arrived and took it down.
"So they spent time and money to undo the work that we had done to protect folks," said Ginderske. "And most troubling of all they didn’t replace it with one."
The park district said it did remove that safety ring Monday, saying in a statement: "It was not authorized by the District however we are currently exploring supplemental safety equipment for sanctioned swim locations."
But 49th Ward Alderman Maria Hadden said it’s ridiculous her constituents have to take charge on an easily fixable problem.
"We’re already paying tax dollars to the park district for them to provide these services for us," said Hadden. "Residents shouldn’t have to come out of their own pocket to do the common sense thing."
Miguel’s mother says she’s going to make sure her son did not die in vain.
"I don’t want anyone to be going through the hell I’m going through right now," said Diaz, wiping a tear from her eye.
There are safety rings along the Chicago River, but those are put there by the City of Chicago — not the Park District.