May 23rd, 2012
10:47 AM ET

After Niagara suicide attempts, questions about how and why

After two people tried to commit suicide by going over Niagara Falls in two days, local media were asking questions about the falls, including:

What could enable a person to survive a plunge?

Are suicide attempts from the falls on the rise?

Is a coming high-wire stunt walk over the falls encouraging the suicide attempts?

On Monday, a man plunged 180 feet over the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. He's now in a Hamilton, Ontario, hospital recovering from injuries that include several broken ribs, a collapsed lung and gashes to his head and shoulders, according to a report in the Buffalo News.

He was pulled to safety by emergency crews after collapsing in waist-deep water, according to a report from CNN affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo.

He is only the fourth person to survive a plunge over the Horseshoe Falls, historian Paul Gromosiak told the News.

The others include a 30-year-old Canadian man in 2009, a Michigan man in 2003 and a 7-year-old boy in 1960, according to the news reports.

The Toronto Star reports that thousands of people have gone over the falls, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, and asks why the known survivor cases are predominantly recent.

The paper points out that the three most recent survivors went over the railing on the Canadian side near the Table Rock House tourist building. From there, the Niagara River's 25 mph current pushed them over the falls.

Some have speculated that the men could have been pushed away from rocks at the base of the falls by a cushion of water, or that winds whipped up the crashing water, according to the Star.

The late Wesley Hill, a Niagara Falls expert, said in 2006 that the dynamics of the falls change based on the amount of water hydro companies take from the upper Niagara River, the Star reported.

But a man who has investigated the three most recent falls survivor cases isn't certain of any constant among them.

"The Niagara River is completely unpredictable," Niagara Parks Police Sgt. Chris Gallagher told the Star.

What is predictable is that the falls will attract people attempting suicide.

While the man in Monday's plunge survived, another person who went over the American portion of Niagara Falls on Tuesday apparently did not. A body has not been recovered, according to local media reports.

New York State Parks Police said Tuesday's suicide on the American Falls was the fourth this year, slightly ahead of a pace that usually sees nine suicides a year from the American side, according to the Buffalo News.

"We're running a little high," Lt. Patrick B. Moriarty of the State Parks Police told the News.

About 20 to 30 people commit suicide from both sides of the Niagara a year, according to the report.

Police usually don't publicize the suicides, Inspector Paul Forcier of the Niagara Parks Police on the Canadian side told the St. Catherine's Standard.

But a planned June stunt is bringing fresh publicity to Niagara Falls this year and has some questioning whether it is giving impetus to suicide attempts.

Renowned high-wire walker Nik Wallenda has announced he will attempt to walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls on June 15.

Wallenda told the News that the stunt should be encouraging anything but suicide.

"I'm doing the impossible, which is what a lot of people feel they can't do because they're depressed. Me making it across the wire and living shows people that they can achieve anything," the News quotes Wallenda as saying.

Wallenda will walk a 2-inch cable attached to massive cranes on each side of the falls, about 1,800 feet across, and 200 feet up from the bottom of the gorge. The crossing should take about 30 to 40 minutes and is planned to take place in early evening.

The last person to cross the gorge on a wire was James Hardy in 1896, but Wallenda said he will be the first to cross directly over the waterfall.

Psychologists disagree over whether the Wallenda stunt has any connection to suicides, according to the Buffalo News report.

"It's something else that kind of gets the falls out there, kind of plants a seed in people's minds," Timothy M. Osberg, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Niagara University, told the News.

Steven L. Dubovsky, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University at Buffalo, doesn't see any connection.

"It might have just reminded people that the falls are there. I doubt it would make people want to jump into the falls," the News quoted Dubovsky as saying.

Visitors to the falls on Tuesday told the Standard they didn't think anything could be done to make the tourist attraction safer.

"There are already signs posted telling people not to climb over the railings. Having more police or higher railings would just spoil it for everyone else. People will still climb over. People always do silly things,” the Standard quotes Stephen Moore, a British tourist, as saying.

“You can patrol these areas and try to make them safer, but at the end of the day, things happen. One way or another, they do,” Rich Inge, a tourist from Scotland, told the Standard.

Park police on both sides of the river are a bit more upbeat. They tell CNN affiliate WVIB that they've talked more people out of suicide at the falls than those who have actually gone through with it.

Suicide emergency phones on both sides of the river have made a difference, according to the report.

And anyone who suspects that someone they know is considering suicide of any kind should try to get them to talk, Mary McConnell of Jewish Family Service told WVIB.

Body of woman swept over falls recovered

Woman swept to death over Niagara Falls

Daredevil to attempt to cross falls on wire

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Filed under: Canada • Niagara Falls
soundoff (149 Responses)

    There must be a sulclde convention in town.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Sodomite

      I'm just dying to attend.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. ChiefGunner

    My wife and I have visited the falls several times. You can stand right next to where the water goes over and there is really nothing to stop you from jumping in. I hope they do not put up big fences to prevent this as not only would it spoil the view (and the affect of being that close) it would not stop this. Jumpers would simply go a bit upstream to jump in.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Ambulance Chaser

      This is a tort attorney dream, if he jumped in on the American side. The park has a duty of care to prevent momentary impulses from becoming fatal, and they failed to exercise ordinary prudence. The liability for that breach of duty is millions ... on the American side. Canadian side, not worth suing.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      It is simple, rights can be voluntarily given up, the suicide should not be illegal. The survivors if on the American side should however be libel for 100% of the cost off the rescue and the rehabilitation. Canadians have free care so i guess the tax pagers foot that bill.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. please

    Until someone can determine that preventing suicide attempts at the falls would prevent the attempt altogether, leave the falls and the associated infrastructure alone.

    As pointed out, building taller fences only ruins the view while doing nothing to prevent what you're trying to prevent. You'd pretty much have to put _cages_ all around to prevent people from even being able to climb around. Just building higher railings advertises the fact that "this might be a good place to jump" even more than a regular railing.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      anyone who suggests fencing is either quite ignorant or never been to the falls, and if they have been to the falls then they are just ignorant

      May 23, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Niagra Falls is for lovers.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |

      And jumpers!

      May 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cs

    Public places increase the chances of preventing the suicide. If you could somehow force them not to do it there with barriors, they would do it in private and there would be no chance.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      try visiting the falls.... the idea of installing barriers is just plain ignorant. and to try and say it isnt is just plain ignorant.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      What an unamerican solution; or should I say what an american solution; more laws and more barriers because of some ding bat wanted to exercise their god given right to kill themselves.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |

      So...are you proposing a giant fence be placed around the entire rim of the Grand Canyon too?

      May 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Why don't they simply shoot 'em before they get in the water leading to the falls. Or at least post a sign "WARNING – TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT". Tourists on the boat rides, like Maid of the Mist, are not rocket scientists. They do not want to see bodies in the water passing the boats. It's frightening for little children also, that cannot comprehend the stupid things some adults do.
    Suicide attempts not only risk the jumpers, but also the authorities trying to stop them as well.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      Only military bases in the US can have a lethal response posting. It is a public park for f- ing sake. Let me guess you vote R, and want more war?

      May 23, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      Now, thats an american solution. Get out the guns, and start shooting. Z would be proud of you. SYG!

      May 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rob

    They should make everyone fill out a questionnaire before they are allowed to enter the Falls area. Question 1: Are you planning on commiting suicide today? Yes / No.

    End of Questionnaire

    May 23, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      And if they answer yes..................?

      May 23, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |

      Then we have Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity" shoot 'em.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bspurloc

    just ignorant questions..... GO to the falls and u have all the answers....
    It is impossible to prevent someone determined from going into the water.
    just blame Obama and move on already

    May 23, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |

    We should legalize suicide and make it an acceptable alternative to living.
    Make it first affordable,then convenient and provide the means to make ones choice of death fit their wishes, no matter the ways othets may object to.
    Nice clean facilitys, on the order of that portrayed in movie "Soylent Green" would suffice.
    Give the suicide some meaning, last will and testement so to speak.
    Set up an appointment so medical staff can immediately dismember usefull body parts gor those who need them.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      Great idea. Why dont you show us the way.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |

      Futurama here we come! Bring out the Sulclde Booths!

      May 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      Just like the 1st ep Futurerama, lol

      May 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. flip

    The NF community should set up an access point that would assure results; only charge a fee for would be divers to provide payment for the subsequent clean up.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Notice my above comment, I inferred the use of guns? And I did.
    But there are still options to this as well. Tranquillizer guns. Stun guns. Rubber bullets. Or being shot in a place disabling the trespasser, without killing them. Needless to say, once out of the hospital, for thier injury, they would be placed under psychotherapy for thier suicidal tendancies. If I was the manic depressive, ready to do myself in, that, at least "would give me a second chance", without frightening unsuspecting tourists.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      What a waste of resources; we can use that money to buy guns for Floridians who want them, but cannot afford them.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Matt

    Any barricades you put up, someone would find a way over or around. People will just have to start accepting that SOME accidents and suicides HAPPEN in life. Stop trying to save stupid people from themselves.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. flip

    Re: Ambulance Chaser
    I love it. Jump over the falls and sue.
    Why arent more people doing it?

    May 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rod C. Venger

    Niagra is nature's killer app. Maybe they should rename it to something a little more upbeat, like "Viagra".

    May 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |

    Slowly he turned NIAGRA FALLS!!

    May 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sabot

      Step by step! Inch by inch!

      May 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
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