CHICAGO — The mother of a college student who drowned in Lake Michigan last month issued a plea to the city of Chicago Tuesday night — install safety equipment along the city’s Lakefront to prevent another tragedy.
At a vigil held in honor of her late child, Maria Diaz said she wants changes implemented at all Chicago beaches and piers. Her son would never take no for an answer, she said, and she won’t either her demands are met.
“The fact that my son died, screaming for help, only 3-6 feet away from witnesses, who had no life ring to toss at him, despite the signage, which I find infuriating, that instructs people to use a life ring when people are struggling, will always and forever haunt me,” Diaz said.
Relatives, friends, neighbors and strangers united near Pratt Pier for a candlelight vigil to remember 19-year-old Miguel Cisneros. On the morning of Aug. 22, firefighters were called to Pratt Pier, located in Rogers Park, on the report of a person in the water. After nearly an hour of searching, authorities pulled Cisneros’ body from the water.
Witnesses said he was close to the pier but could not aid him in his attempts to reach the shore.
Gatherers once again demanded the city take steps to address the dangerous conditions near the pier.
Cisneros, who graduated in 2020 from St. Ignatius, excelled in rowing. His mother says he was a star athlete and student with a big brain, heading into his second year on full scholarship at Columbia University in New York.
Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says there have been more than a thousand drownings in the Great Lakes over the past decade. He says life rings can mean the difference between life and death and doing nothing will cost more lives.
“Every drowning has a future—has a family—have a future that they were going to live,” Benjamin said.
After Miguel’s death, a fed-up Rogers Park resident spent his own money to put up a life ring at the pier. The Chicago Park District, however, removed the ring because it wasn’t authorized. Days later, officials also removed a second ring placed by residents.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward) said she believes a resolution is near.
“From Miguel’s death, what we can work for and what we can make of this is a change,” she said. “A change to bring more safety to our waterfront. A change of policy for the Chicago Park District.”
On Tuesday, Diaz said she hopes her tragic loss inspires citywide change.
“I hope that my Mikey, whose middle name was ‘Angel,’ will be our angel in finally getting our city and park district officials to make a change and provide the safety equipment our lakefront desperately needs and should be offered.”