Thursday, March 12, 2009

Man Lives after going over Niagara Falls!


"Niagara", completed in 1857 by Frederic Church

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Man jumps into Niagara River, goes over Horseshoe Falls, survives
By Aaron Besecker


NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — A man who jumped into the upper rapids on the Canadian side of the Niagara River and then fell over the Horseshoe Falls was rescued this afternoon after spending more than 40 minutes in frigid waters below the falls.

The man, who suffered a head injury and hypothermia, would not help emergency responders with his rescue but was saved when a firefighter using safety equipment swam out about 50 yards into the Niagara River, said officials from the Niagara Falls, Ont., police and fire departments.

The man, said to be in his late 30s, was either unable or unwilling to grab onto a pole extended out to him from two rescuers aboard a helicopter. The helicopter pilot then positioned the aircraft in a way that used the winds to push the man closer to the shoreline.

The man was taken by Niagara EMS to Greater Niagara General Hospital, officials said.

A tourist who saw the man hop a fence and jump into the water reported the incident by calling 911 at about 2:11 p.m., Niagara Falls Fire Chief Lee Smith said.

The river's temperature was just above freezing, and ice floes could be seen in the area, Smith said.

The Horseshoe Falls is 167 feet high and the pool of water beneath it is equally as deep. On average, about 1.5 million gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls every second.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was pushed in circles by the river currents over about an area of 100 yards, but was able to keep himself afloat before he was rescued.

"It's amazing that he survived that long," Smith said. "He was very close to not being able to keep himself afloat anymore."

The man had clothes on when he entered the water, but was naked when he was rescued.

Rescuers believe the force of the falls stripped him of his clothing.

"It's pretty remarkable really that he could survive in the icy waters, especially after going over the falls...," Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug W. Kane said. "To survive that long in the icy waters is almost unheard of."

A U.S. man became only the second person to survive plunging over Niagara Falls without a barrel on Oct. 21, 2003, in an apparent stunt that one longtime Niagara River rescuer called a "one-in-a-million chance."

The first person pulled from the river alive after going over the cataract was Roger Woodward, who survived a fall over the Horseshoe Falls after the boat he was in capsized in the Upper Niagara River in 1960, when he was 7 years old. He was wearing a life vest.

The parks police High Angle River Team, about 20 firefighters, and several ambulance personnel and police officers took part in today's rescue, along with Niagara Helicopters, a private Niagara Falls, Ont. company.

The helicopter was piloted by Ruedi Hafen, a member of the High Angle River Team.

abesecker@buffnews.com

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