21st Century Daredevil
The only man to tumble over the Horseshoe Falls, without barrel or other floatation device, and live, achieved infamy in 2003. Kirk Jones, of Canton, Michigan, had publicly stated beforehand that there was a spot at the top of the falls where a man could go over Niagara Falls and live. He apparently found that spot at 12:40 AM on October 22, 2003. Eyewitnesses to the stunt said they saw Jones, floating on his back in the Niagara River above the Horseshoe Falls. His claim to fame would send him plummeting 173 feet into the rapids below the falls and bring him safely ashore, 300 feet away.
A year later, Jones paid a visit to the American side of the falls to view the scene of his stunt. He recalled, “I hit the icy-cold water and it was an absolute shock to my system. Immediately, I was flying, 30 miles an hour, toward the brink of the falls. I heard my friend’s voice, and I knew he was standing right near the edge, so I knew I was getting close.” Jones said as he approached the brink of the falls, it was like being pulled into a whirlpool. “In a millisecond, I was just sucked right into the falls itself. I was, like, standing straight up, but I wasn’t standing at all. I was being swallowed by a living beast.” Jones said, “Instantly, I was hit with the rock-hard water of the gorge. I barrel rolled about 40 feet down. I felt my ears pop, and I was trapped down there with all of the falls on top of me.” Jones said no matter how hard he tried to swim to the surface, for about 90 seconds he was unable to escape the churning foam. With water beginning to fill his lungs, Jones thought that Niagara had indeed beaten him. Then he suddenly bobbed to the surface, like a cork released under pressure and was able to cough up the water he had taken in.
For another ten minutes, Jones fought the currents in the gorge to reach land. He remembers tourists on board the Maid of the Mist as they shouted in amazement and took pictures to prove they were not imagining the sight. When he reached the Canadian shore, Jones crawled, exhausted, onto the rocks. His clothes soaked and ripped, he waited for help to arrive. The first to respond was Ontario police officer Kim Burton. She asked Jones if he had fallen in the lower river, and he responded no, and pointed to the top of the falls. She said in amazement, “you’re under arrest.” For his few minutes of fame, Jones learned that he could face a $10,000 fine and would be forbidden to enter Canada again.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094