NIAGARA FALLS, ONT. —
Crowds visiting Niagara Falls on the Victoria Day holiday watched the rescue of a man who plunged at least 180 feet over the falls and survived.
He's only the fourth person known to have gone over without a safety device and live.
Niagara Parks Police in Niagara Falls, Ont., say witnesses reported seeing the man climb over a railing at 10:20 a.m. Monday and "deliberately jump" into the Niagara River 20 to 30 feet above the Horseshoe Falls. He surfaced in the lower Niagara River basin near the Journey Behind the Falls observation platform.
Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side of the river, is the tallest of the three main falls, higher than the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
The man, believed to be in his early 40s, was rescued about two hours after he collapsed in waist-deep water near the rocky shore. A waiting helicopter flew him to a hospital for treatment of what police said were life-threatening injuries. Police did not identify him.
Canandian Parks Police Sgt. Chris Gallagher and firefighter Brandon Fife treated the man at the water’s edge. The man was shirtless, Gallagher told the Niagara Falls, Ont., Review, but appeared to be wearing a pair of blue pants.
“He had some abrasions to the head and rest of his body. He was in good condition, considering,” said fire department platoon Chief Dan Orescanin to the Review.
”When we arrived, he was already on the shoreline with parks police. From our reports, it’s amazing, if that’s what happened,” Orescanin said.
Despite suffering what police later described as life-threatening injuries, the man was sitting up at the river’s edge. Rescuers wrapped him in a silver, foil-like emergency blanket. He was later immobilized by firefighters and loaded into a rescue basket to be lifted to the top of the gorge.
He had gashes on his head and appeared to be suffering from hypothermia and shock, Gallagher said.
“He was conscious. He understood what we were saying to him,” Gallagher said, but added the man didn’t communicate very well with his rescuers.
Since 1901, when Annie Edison Taylor was the first person known to go over the falls and live, 17 others have replicated the feat, most by using safety devices like Taylor's oak barrel or the foamed-lined pickle barrel and inner tube contraption Steve Trotter used to go over in 1985.
The last person to go over the Falls unaided and survive was a 30-year-old Canadian man in March 2009.
In October 2003, Kirk Jones, an out-of-work auto parts salesman from Michigan survived his plunge over the falls and, in 1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the falls wearing a life jacket and survived.