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Mother Fights To Get Life Rings On Chicago's Lakefront After Son Drowns Near Pratt Pier

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Baby steps were taken Friday in the fight to get life rings to Chicago's lakefront at a meeting between the city and the family of the 19-year-old who drowned almost two weeks ago at the pier where it happened.

CBS 2's Marissa Parra has been reporting on the fight to get life rings to the city's lakefront for months.

A sign recommends throwing a life ring if someone is in trouble, but there is no life ring in sight. That was just one of the concerns brought up at the meeting, but the Park District didn't want to talk about that.

"If flotation devices had been available, lives would have been saved," said Maria Diaz, whose son died almost two weeks ago.

Nineteen-year-old Miguel Cisneros was supposed to be moving in at Columbia University for a full scholarship, but dreams were cut short on Aug. 22 when his swim turned deadly.

Since then, anguish has turned to anger and action as word spread that the athletic Chicagoan was feet from the pier with no life ring in sight -- despite cries from residents for years.

Facing heat, the city's park district repainted the "No Swimming" stenciling along the pier this week.

Rogers Park residents pitched in to bring their own life rings to Pratt Pier, but for the third time, those life rings were taken down by the Park District. The latest time was minutes before a meeting between the city, Miguel's cousin, and activists.

On Thursday, the Park District said the rings they took down the first two times were not authorized safety devices, but they are willing to reevaluate their position on keeping some up.

"I came to this meeting to discuss life rings and other safety devices," Miguel's cousin Ricardo Diaz said. "We're not just going to wait and hold our breath. We are in the process of exploring all of our options."

To the dismay of several, the walkthrough discussed signage and stenciling and flags -- everything but life rings.

"We'll be cautiously optimistic," said Ald. Maria Hadden (49th). "We can give them a little time, if what they come back with does not include it, we'll continue to advocate and push for those."

For Miguel's mom, getting life rings along the city's lake is the only way her family will find peace.

"This is not just about him," she said. "I hope this is Miguel's legacy to save more lives. That would make the pain I'm going through a little more bearable."

Hadden says she is remaining cautiously optimistic that the Park District's plans in the next two weeks will include a plan for life rings along the entire lake and not just along Pratt Pier.

But Rep. Kelly Cassidy's statement brought a bit of fire:

"This issue isn't new to our community and my constituents have been demanding action for years. I'm encouraged that the Park District appears ready to act, but even before the most recent tragedy we were working on legislation to mandate appropriate safety equipment at our beaches and I am prepared to move forward with it."

The family is holding a vigil for Miguel next Tuesday at Tobey Prinz Beach Park at 7:30.

The Park District did not respond to request for comment Friday.

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