City says no written reports made for annual Falls Park safety studies

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The City of Sioux Falls says safety assessments at Falls Park are conducted annually, but they are not written reports.

The announcement came Thursday following requests for an incident review conducted at Falls Park after two drowning deaths in 2013.

The City said because of Falls Park's popularity, a loss control consultant contracted by the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance (SDPAA) evaluates the park with a risk manager annually.

These reports, which were done orally, were completed in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

In 2013, an incident review was conducted following the two drowning deaths. The City said no safety report was prepared for this review, but updated signage was authorized, ordered, and installed, and holes were drilled into the quartzite walls after a team identified where lines should be placed to aid rescue personnel.

In 2016, the SDPAA conducted an internal staff training exercise that included a limited review of Falls Park.

Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Director Don Kearney says concerns around additional fencing, placement of rescue devices, partial closing of the park during high water periods, and a number of other measures were discussed, the City said, during the training exercise.

The group provided no additional recommendations regarding the river hazard beyond what were implemented after the 2013 incident. The SDPAA released its internal safety training document relating to Falls Park to the public and to the City on March 28.

The City said it is conducting an incident review in response to the drowning that occurred on March 18 with representatives from Fire Rescue, Emergency Management, Police, Risk Management, City Attorney’s Office, Parks and Recreation, and the SDPAA.

Further information will be released to the city council and the public once the review is complete.