Custer mourning death of 2-year-old girl in septic tank

Farm Forum

CUSTER, S.D. (AP) — The western South Dakota community of Custer is in mourning after a 2-year-old girl fell into an open underground septic tank and died.

Residents have tied teal-and-purple ribbons around town in memory of Evelyn Ferraro, KOTA-TV reported.

“We’re all just grieving for this poor family and the little girl they lost,” said neighbor Brit Beemer. “Everybody feels that it’s just a horrible, terrible, terrible, tragedy.”

The girl was reported missing on the morning of May 6 from the mobile home court west of Custer where she lived with her family. Rescuers drained the nearby tank and found the unresponsive girl, but were unable to save her. She died at a Custer hospital that morning. Her organs are being donated.

“There’s nothing that compares to the loss of an innocent,” Custer County Search and Rescue Director Rick March said. “A 2-year-old child — that’s as tough as it gets.”

Law officers, emergency responders and hospital staff gathered Saturday to discuss the incident.

“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,” said Doris Ann Mertz, director of the Custer County Library and a member of the Search and Rescue team.

Sheriff Rick Wheeler told The Associated Press that authorities assume the girl drowned and no autopsy is planned. Wheeler declined to release further details, including why the tank was uncovered, citing the ongoing investigation. He said the death was accidental and that no criminal charges are planned.

About 2,000 people live in Custer.

A memorial fund has been established and donations for the family are being accepted at Western Skies Real Estate in Custer, any Black Hills Federal Credit Union and on the GoFundMe website at