CUSTER, S.D. (KOTA TV) The words of the director of Custer County Search and Rescue say it all:
“There's nothing that compares to the loss of an innocent. A two-year-old child -- that's as tough as it gets,” said Rick March.
He was talking Monday about a tragedy that struck a Custer family Friday when a two-year-old girl fell into an open tank. Emergency responders were on scene within minutes of receiving the 9:06 a.m. 911 call but their efforts couldn't save the little girl's life.
The death of little Evelyn Estelle Ferraro is resonating all over town. The family is devastated, first responders are in shock and Community members are out and about tying ribbons everywhere to show support for Evelyn's memory and to help raise money for her family.
“We're all just grieving for this poor family and the little girl they lost,” said neighbor Brit Beemer. “Everybody feels that is just a horrible, terrible, terrible, tragedy.”
The Thompson Trailer Court was the scene of the tragedy when search and rescue team members responded to the home of Chuck and Jenny Ferraro with a report that their daughter Evelyn was missing.
She was found shortly later in an open tank. Unresponsive.
“All of the emergency responders did the right things and the response was nothing short of heroic,” said March. “But the outcome was tragic.”
Evelyn was taken to Custer Regional Hospital where she died.
The pain is being felt throughout the community -- and among the ranks of first responders.
“We’re used to finding people and getting to be the hero,” said Doris Ann Mertz who is the Director of the Custer County Library and also a member of the Search and Rescue team. “It's hard when you're not successful and especially hard if it's a kid.”
On Saturday morning a meeting was held with every responder involved from search and rescue, the sheriff's office to the ambulance and hospital team.
“There were quite a few tears,” said March.
Added Mertz: “It turned out to be a good thing for everybody to share their part of the story and what image they can't shake from their mind.
“Like the nurses it was seeing her little painted pink fingernails and the little braids in her hair that her mom had done that morning.”
Other members of the community have tied ribbons all around -- in Evelyn's favorite colors.
“There's teal and purple ribbons all over town because that was this girl's favorite color,” said March. “The community as painting of the town teal and purple.
A memorial fund has been established and donations are being accepted at Western Skies Real Estate in Custer, any Black Hills Federal Credit Union or at www.gofundme.com