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Utah family mourns loss of teen who tried to save her brother

Published: Saturday, March 16 2013 7:32 p.m. MDT

Rescuers search the Big Sioux River for 16-year-old Madison Leigh Wallace and 28-year-old Lyle Francis Eagletail, who were dragged away by the fast-moving, icy river in Sioux Falls, S.D., as they tried to save the girl's 6-year-old brother, Garrett, Thursday, March 14, 2013. The boy was pulled ashore with minor injuries, but his sister and Eagletail are presumed drowned. (AP Photo/The Argus Leader, Elisha Page) NO SALES

Elisha Page, AP

EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Amanda Goodman spent some time Saturday pushing her children higher in their Eagle Mountain backyard swing set.

But her mind was in South Dakota, where her cousin, 16-year old Madison Wallace, drowned trying to save her younger brother.

 "They came out on a whim in December for Christmas because we had a cousin getting married,” said Goodman, “and I'm so glad I had that with her because we were so looking forward to having them back in Utah."

The teenager jumped into the Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls Thursday night after believing her 6-year old brother Garrett fell in. Rescue workers say they're not sure if her brother actually fell into the river, or just slipped in the runoff foam that floats above the rushing water.

Either way, Wallace was trying to save him, and died doing so.

Garrett survived.

"She was always more concerned about somebody else than herself,” said Eve Nelson, Madison’s aunt, “and she always wanted to make sure everybody was happy."

Nelson and other family members gathered outside Nelson’s Orem home Saturday morning, just a few blocks away from where Madison’s family had lived.

Madison's father, Jay, moved his family to South Dakota to go to school to get a Master's degree, and is about a month away from earning it.

Now, the entire family is doing their best to deal with their loss.

They say Madison loved music and crafts, and was an amazing decorator.

 "We made Christmas cookies one year, and everyone was just piling everything on, but hers were masterpieces," said Dawn Jones, who is an aunt to Madison. "You didn't want to eat them they were so beautiful."

 Twenty-eight-year-old Lyle Eagletail also jumped into the river to help after seeing Madison go in and lost his life. Rescuers found his body Saturday after a two-day search of the river.

 "He is a guardian angel, too, for risking his life, not even hesitating and jumping in," said Nelson. "We can't thank his family enough."

Equipment was brought to the river to cut up ice forming near a waterfall, and crews are dealing with 10-foot high foam that forms from the rushing water.

 “The fact he would go in and try to help shows a lot about him. He was a stranger, didn’t even know them, but he just wanted to help,” Nelson said.

A fund has been set up to help the Wallace family. It can be found at http://madisonwallacefund.com/

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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