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)
  1. LMN

    Oh my...nothing like giving tips on how to successfully commit suicide.

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

      It can be either a 3 step or a 1 step program...
      1. Open mouth
      2. Insert barrel
      3. Pull trigger
      1. Jump into Niagra Falls

      May 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Off topic Jj

      AnyOne here see the occupy protesters stabbed a police officer in chicago yesterday? A real classy group there! Another group that has backfired in the face of obamas support...

      May 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    Ambulance chaser has chosen an appropriate name. No one will ever survive going over the American Falls because of the rock thats fallen off over the years.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kimo

    I wonder if he attempted suicide because he is a failure at everything he tries?

    May 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Kimo is a failure at everything he tries so the Falls should be a worthy challenge for him

      May 24, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jonny D

    Pedo Bear, you are an idiot. Take your own instructions. Any one with a screen name like that should just end it!

    May 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |

      Darwin called. he wants to know what the hold up is with you.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. elvisg

    Maybe this is the year the old records are all shattered...

    May 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Richard

    These losers aren't far removed from the ones who decide to "take people with them."

    May 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      Why, except the cleanup they aren't hurting anyone. If it were legal to end it, maybe they would do it in a more efficient way. May be Mark zuck should jump. His FB scam is tanking

      May 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marc

    If someone's going to kill themselves there's not much you're going to be able to do to stop them. With a bad economy and the working class getting shafted at every turn of course the numbers are going to be higher then average.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Realist

    George Zimmerman should get a security guard job here. No more failed attempts!

    Free George! He is INNOCENT!

    May 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |

      George? Is that you again?

      May 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Su Lynn

    Who cares? If they want to die let them – and stop wasting taxpayer (Canadian or American) money on fishing them out!!!!!

    May 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merlin

      Agree. Put up a diving board on the area where they are sure not to survive.

      We have to get below 7 billion people world wide.

      May 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. @Biased Jj

    Pedal your bs rhetoric elsewhere. The classless one here is YOU, posting on a completely unrelated thread. Go back to Fox, you troll.

    May 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |

    If he waited a week, he could have watched facebook stock pass him on the way down

    May 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan Keddani

      That's PERFECT! I just emptied my bladder on that one. Thanks!

      May 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |

    Cant fix stupid, people are going to do what they want without wanting to do the right thing, kill yourself at home, out in the yard or something, where the mess wont matter so much. no frills, no fuss, just TCB

    May 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ann

    When I was 8, my parents and I visited the falls. I noticed an older lady (ha, she was probably the age I am now!) looking over. She stood out because she had a black sweater on, and carried a black umbrella (it was a clear summer day). After we moved on, we heard a commotion from the area where we just were. Apparently, the lady handed her sweater and umbrella to her daughter, then jumped.

    I'm a psychologist now, and I'm sorry she didn't get whatever kind of help she needed back then. Still, I don't think anyone's to blame – this kind of thing will happen. There's no reason to clog up the view with orange "Danger!" signs and fencing (as in one state park outside of Albany, NY – I forget the name). It's pretty obvious that the falls are deadly. Ever been to Yellowstone? Tiny, winding, narrow little roads, with steep dropoffs to the side. No guardrails or signs needed – only an idiot would drive fast there. It's beautiful.

    Besides – someday, if I have a terminal illness and decide I want a quick exit – why not go out with a thrill?

    May 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Su Lynn

      Lucky she wasn't in New Jersey! They would have arrest her daughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • JackWagon

      Wow, you must drive a lexus, huh?

      May 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mortician

    20-30 a year?? I'm moving there to be a mortician!

    May 23, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ZombieHunter2012

    Can we just electrify the fence around it? It'd be constantly wet...and hilarious!!

    May 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ZombieHunter2012

      (guard rails)

      May 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
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