Travel News

Niagara Falls Deaths Highlight Visitors Ignoring Safety Rules

Niagara Falls - credit: Dayna Roselli

Locations in this article:  Las Vegas, NV Toronto, Canada

A 19-year-old Japanese student apparently fell to her death after climbing over a safety railing for a photograph at Niagara Falls. When local police and firefighters went searching for her, they instead uncovered the body of an unidentified, unrelated man from the whirlpools at the bottom of the falls.

Local officials say the young woman’s fall was captured on security cameras as well as by fellow visitors. The woman, who is said to be a student in nearby Toronto, was straddling the safety railing overlooking the Canadian side of Niagara to get a better view.

When she got up to climb back over, she lost her footing on the slippery barrier wall, which is often wet with spray from the falls. She fell 80 feet into the fast-moving currents just above the Horseshoe Falls.

In the more than 100 years that Niagara Falls has been a popular tourist attraction–these days, about 11 million people visit annually–a mere seven accidental deaths have occurred at the falls. Only one person has ever survived accidentally going over the falls, though almost a dozen daredevils have taken the plunge on purpose and most lived to tell the tale.

In addition to deaths from accidental falls and daredevils, roughly 20-25 people commit suicide at Niagara Falls every year by jumping over the rail and into the water.

While a plunge over the falls is a headline-grabbing event, local officials on both sides of the border say that it’s actually the rescue of hikers in the nearby Niagara Gorge that’s a more common safety issue. In fact, on the same day the Japanese student fell into the river, police were called to rescue a Canadian man who’d fallen into the Niagara Gorge near the Rainbow Bridge, again after climbing a safety railing in an attempt to get a better view. Though he was rescued by the Niagara Falls Fire Department, he was hospitalized with a serious leg fracture and head trauma.

Niagara Falls - photo by Dayna Roselli

Niagara Falls - photo by Dayna Roselli

And tourists aren’t just putting themselves in danger, they’re also endangering the lives of those who came to his aid. The man’s two friends had to be rescued after trying to help him and one first responder had to be carefully untangled from trees during the four-hour rescue. The man who fell into the gorge may face criminal charges under Canada’s Niagara Parks Act of Ontario.

According to Dayna Roselli, an anchor at KLAS-TV in Las Vegas who happens to be vacationing there today, a number of tourists at Niagara Falls were talking about the death during their visit. But despite the prominence of this recent accident, Roselli also reported that there seemed to be no additional security personnel or safety measures in place and that tourists were still sitting on railings in order to take pictures.

Though local officials have agreed to review safety procedures after the accident, most visitors find the warnings to be prominent and frequent. But even with a high-profile fall making headlines, some tourists continue to ignore the risks.

In a macabre coincidence, a funeral directors’ convention is currently being held in nearby Cataract City, with more than 400 funeral directors and managers in town for the 3-day-long conference.

By Matthew Calcara for Photos courtesy of Dayna Roselli.

Sources: Toronto StarWGRZGlobal PostCBS NewsWIVB, Newstalk 1010Dayna Roselli on Twitter

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