Updated at: 03/17/2013 4:09 PM
(AP) SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The mother of a man who died in an icy South Dakota river while trying to rescue a 6-year-old boy says her son made the ultimate sacrifice.
A search boat on Saturday discovered the body of 28-year-old Lyle Francis Eagletail in the Big Sioux River. Eagletail and 16-yer-old Madison Leigh Wallace died when they tried to save Madison’s brother, Garrett Martin Wallace, who later emerged from the river uninjured.
Eagletail’s mother, Margaret, was among about two dozen family members and friends who watched the recovery effort Saturday at Falls Park.
"I think of my son as the biggest hero. He sacrificed himself for that little child and that’s the way his grandmother brought him up, with much love and respect," Margaret Eagletail told KSFY-TV.
The incident happened Thursday afternoon. Witness accounts differ on whether someone pushed the boy out of the water or he popped up on a rock before being pulled ashore, Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras has said.
The body of Madison Wallace, of Vermillion, was discovered Friday afternoon. Eagletail’s body was discovered about 100 feet from her body in a part of the river that was about 12 feet deep, police said.
Margaret Eagletail thanked the rescue workers after her son’s body was recovered.
Jeff Helm, division chief for Sioux Falls Fire and Rescue, said the recovery of the body provided some closure for family members and searchers. Helm said he "can only imagine" what the family members of the two victims are going through.
"We are trying to keep them informed what the next steps are," Helm said.
The city of Sioux Falls is named after the Big Sioux River’s cascading waterfalls in Falls Park, a tourist attraction where people often picnic or pose for wedding photos. The park draws about 525,000 visitors annually, according the local visitors’ bureau, and is an especially popular spot in the spring and summer.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)