Other Niagara Tales

Test Pilots

May 1st 1950

Two test pilots crawled out of a helicopter which crashed into the Niagara River, approximately 300 yards before the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. This helicopter crashed during a rescue attempt to save a woman who had become stranded in the Niagara River approximately 75 feet from the shoreline of Goat Island. The two airmen and the woman were subsequently rescued by boat.

The Niagara Queen

April 24th 1966

The Ontario Hydro icebreaker boat, the “Niagara Queen”, was on the upper Niagara River. They were in a blinding fog on a shoal near Tower Island (end of the International Water Control Dam). In order to rescue the icebreaker and its crew, a twelve passenger Sikorski helicopter was brought in to drop a lifeline to the stranded boat. The Niagara Queen was then able to be towed to safety by an American icebreaker employed by the New York State Power Authority.

The Airplane

February 11th 1963

A light airplane crashes in a field above Dufferin Islands approximately 300 yards from the Niagara River. Four American men were killed instantly. The men, from Niagara Falls, New York had taken off at 10 a.m. from the St. Catharines – Niagara District Airport in a single engine Piper Tri-Pacer aircraft only a short time before crashing. The crash was subsequently determined to have been caused by structural failure of the main spar of the left wing.

The Air Force

December 1st 1961

A U.S. Air Force F-100 Super Sabre Jet crashed and exploded in the Niagara River Gorge, narrowly missing forty workmen on the Queenston – Lewiston Steel Arch Bridge. Pilot Lt. Edward Metlot of New York City ejected from the jet before the crash and landed along the American shoreline.

The Whirlpool Rapids

July 26th 1972

At 10:30 a.m., six passengers and two crew members were riding on a thirty-five foot long nylon and rubber raft. They were thrown into the wild churning waters of the Whirlpool Rapids after hitting a rogue wave. The raft overturned throwing the eight people into the water. The Whirlpool Rapids attains a speed of approximately thirty miles per hour.

All passengers and crew were wearing life preservers were whisked into the Whirlpool at the end of the rapids where they were rescued by a second raft which was followed the first through the rapids. Both rafts had been outfitted with 25 horsepower outboard motors which were no match for the mighty rapids. Trial runs through the rapids prior to this event satisfied the owners that the motors had sufficient power to control the raft. The rafts were owned by Niagara White Water Tours, a company formed George Grider and William Wendell, both executives of the Carborundum Company of Niagara Falls, New York. The company was planning regular five mile raft trips through the Niagara River rapids to Lewiston, New York.

The Barge

July 16th 1853

Three men were working on a dredging scow (barge) which was anchored in the Niagara River, East of Goat Island, decided to go to shore during the afternoon. The only way to shore was by use of a row boat. As the three men began rowing to shore, they discovered that the current was much stronger than they had originally anticipated. Suddenly one of their oars broke, and the row boat entered the American Channel rapids which swept them downstream. The rowboat capsized and two of the three men were swept to their death over the brink of the American Falls. The third man, Samuel Avery, was able to grab onto some tree roots growing off a rock just east of Chapin Island. Avery spent the night stranded in the cool fast flowing water. The roar of the mighty rapids prevented anyone from hearing any of Avery’s screams for help.

The next morning, Avery’s plight was observed by several tourists and efforts began in order to rescue Avery. Initial efforts, which consisted of releasing boats and rafts towards Avery from the Bath Island Bridge, failed. Finally a boat which was tethered to the Bath Island Bridge was guided downstream and reached Samuel Avery. With little strength left, Avery was able to climb into the boat. Unfortunately the boat immediately capsized throwing Avery back into the turbulent waters. Throwing his hands up in surrender, Avery let out a final scream, fell backwards into the water and was carried to his death over the American Falls.

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