Man survives plunge over Niagara Falls

Tries to swim away from rescuers after hitting icy water

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario - A man survived a 180-foot plunge over Niagara Falls on Wednesday and then resisted rescuers' efforts to pull him from the icy water, police said.

The man, believed to be in his late 30s, was semiconscious when he was rescued and was taken to a hospital in Niagara Falls, Canada. His condition was not immediately known.

Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug Kane said the man was suffering from hypothermia and a head injury. Police were unable to get any information from the man because of the effects of the near-freezing water.

Asked if the man was trying to kill himself, Kane said: "He voluntarily entered into the water and refused medical assistance at the bottom."

A witness called police telling them a man had jumped into the Horseshoe Falls on the Niagara's Canadian side. A short time later, he was seen near the base of the falls.

Specially trained falls rescue crews tried to assist the man but he swam away from them toward the middle of the river, Kane said.

A private helicopter from Niagara Falls Helicopter was called in and got close to the victim. Wind from the chopper's blades forced enough of a current to push him closer to shore where rescuers could get to him.

Suicide mission?
"He wasn't cooperative," the pilot, Ruedi Hafen, owner of Niagara Falls Helicopter, told The Associated Press. "He didn't try to be helpful. We had a sling on him and he got out of it."

Hafen said the man, who had a "big gashing injury" on his head, was in the water for about a half-hour and spent much of that time resisting attempts to help him.

A firefighter and another rescue worker swam about 60 yards (meters) from shore, grabbed hold of him and hauled him in, said Niagara Fire Capt. David Belme.

"He was on a suicide mission, I assume," Hafen said.

"I've never, in my career, seen someone so tough, swimming between the ice."

The last person known to survive a plunge over the falls was Kirk Jones, a former auto parts salesman from Michigan who climbed down a small embankment and jumped into the Niagara River on Oct. 20, 2003.

Jones said he had been depressed and had been drinking vodka and cola when he went over the famous falls on the Canadian side, a drop of 180 feet.

At least 17 people — not including suicide attempts — are known to have gone over the falls.

Niagara Falls consists of three waterfalls: the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

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