Updated: 03/15/2013 12:24 PM KSTP.com By: Leslie Dyste
A man and a woman are presumed drowned in Sioux Falls after a fast-moving, icy river dragged them away as they tried to save a 6-year-old child who had fallen in, fire officials said Friday.
Emergency crews continued searching the Big Sioux River at Falls Park, although their focus changed overnight from rescue to recovery, said Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras.
The boy was climbing on rocks Thursday evening when he fell into the frothing water, Sideras said.
The boy's sister jumped in to save him but was swept away. A man also jumped in to help but he too disappeared into the freezing water.
Witness accounts differ on whether someone pushed the boy out of the water or he popped up on a rock before being pulled ashore. Emergency workers carried the boy away from the river wrapped in a blanket and he was not injured, Sideras said.
"He wasn't in that long," he said.
Napoleon Ducheneaux, 21, said his friend fell into the river while trying to help the boy and the woman. He was holding onto the woman and boy by their hands before his hands began sliding, then he just "slipped and disappeared," Ducheneaux told The Associated Press late Thursday.
Authorities have not released the names or other details about the missing man and woman.
"These people literally jumped in without thinking of their own safety and trying to rescue that child," he said. "It's a very noble act that they did, and they probably contributed to saving that boy's life."
Nevertheless, Sideras said the optimum way to help someone who falls into water is to stay on the shore and mark where that person went in.
Sideras said rescue crews have been working against the river's strong current, a thick sheet of ice that firefighters are trying to break into pieces, and large amounts of foam, which firefighters were blowing away with water hoses.
The water temperature hovered around freezing, putting emergency crews at risk of hypothermia.
Falls Park, a city tourist attraction where people often picnic and wedding pictures are taken, remained closed to the public on Friday.
The city is named after the river's cascading waterfalls in the park, which is a popular spot in the summer and spring. For the first time in months, the temperature rose to around 50 degrees in Sioux Falls on Thursday.
Associated Press writer Kristi Eaton contributed to this report.
Click here to view raw video of the recovery efforts.
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