Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 12, 2009

FALLS PLUNGE: Man rescued after surviving jump over Horseshoe

Firefighters have to be ready for anything, but a polar-bear dip into the icy water at the base of Niagara Falls is a unique challenge.

“That’s my first ice-water rescue — outside of training,” said Todd Brunning, the 34-year-old firefighter who jumped into the Niagara River and swam out to save a man who witnesses said went over the Horseshoe Falls and lived.

After surviving the 170-foot plunge over the Horseshoe Falls, the unidentified man swam in the icy water of the Niagara River for about 30 minutes while rescuers raced against the clock to get him out.

“If it had gone on a couple minutes more, he would have sunk beneath the water,” said Niagara Parks Police Sgt. Chris Gallagher.

It wasn’t clear whether it was a stunt or a suicide attempt.

Police, firefighters, paramedics and a private helicopter pilot worked for about 45 minutes to save the man who went into the water above the falls but stayed afloat in the lower river. He clung to a log at times, and was swimming in the near-freezing water while rescuers prepared on shore.

He was listed in critical condition Wednesday night. He was transferred to Hamilton General Hospital, after having initially been taken to Greater Niagara General Hospital. He was treated for hypothermia and head trauma.

Niagara Parks Police were called to the river at 2:11 p.m., after a tourist saw a man climb over the wall south of Table Rock House. Police believe him to be in his late 30s but don’t know much about him because he was naked and semi-conscious when he was rescued.

Police said the man was dressed when he went into the water, but the force of the rushing water could strip the clothes off someone.

“He voluntarily entered the water and refused assistance at the bottom. Whatever conclusion you want to draw from that,” parks police Chief Doug Kane said.

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