Goat Island Rescue

October 7th 1973

At 3:30 p.m., four people were in a boat on the upper Niagara River, approximately 200 yards from the Goat Island shoreline, when the outboard motor struck a rock and quit functioning. The boat drifted towards the Horseshoe Falls. The three adults climbed out of the boat and stood in the shallow rapids as the boat continued over the Falls. The adult female was holding an infant in her arms. They were identified as Lee Switzer, Jerry Land, Joanne Horn and her 18 month old infant son. They remained stranded until help arrived.

In an attempt to rescue them, a sightseeing helicopter, piloted by Dale Hartman, carrying two police officers, Sergeant Joseph Boyd and Officer James MacNeil, tried an Ariel rescue. As the helicopter hovered above those stranded, the policemen crawled out of the cockpit onto the landing skids in an attempt to save the stranded. One of the stranded men grabbed onto one of the struts causing the helicopter to tilt onto its side allowing the main rotor to strike the water. The helicopter burst into flames but by a stroke of luck no one was seriously injured. The only downfall was that now the lives of eight people were in jeopardy as they remained stranded.

The New York State Parks Police dispatched their police boat with three officers aboard. Sergeant Lyse Newberry, Lieutenant Joseph DeMarco and Officer Anthony Larratta were headed out in a second rescue attempt. They piloted the boat into the rapids but immediately became stranded when the propeller of their motor broke. Larratta and DeMarco jumped out of the boat and swam through the strong current to the stranded helicopter. Sergeant Newberry was swept down river, still in the boat, within one thousand feet of the brink of the Falls before jumping for his life. Newberry was able to grab a hold of a tree extending from Solon Island. Other officers forming a human chain pulled him to shore. Nearly two and a half hours after being stranded, the nine stranded people were able to walk to shore after safety ropes were sent to them by using a breeches buoy type gun. Ultimately everyone was rescued with little or no injury.

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