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Accident Description


Man who survived 2003 plunge at Niagara Falls now dies there

 
 
June 16
 

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — A man who occupied a fleeting spotlight after surviving a plunge over Niagara Falls without protection in 2003 has died after he went over again, this time during an apparent stunt with an inflatable ball, park police said Friday.

The body of 53-year-old Kirk R. Jones was pulled out of the water June 2 in Youngstown, where the Niagara River feeds into Lake Ontario.

The empty ball had been found earlier in the rapids above the American Falls, one of three falls known collectively as Niagara Falls.

New York state park police said they believe Jones was in Niagara Falls on April 19 and may have tried to go over the falls in the large ball.

“The attempted stunt was unsuccessful, which resulted in the demise of Mr. Jones,” the park police said in a news release.

Although such stunts are illegal, several daredevils have survived trips in various contraptions, beginning with Annie Edison Taylor, who rode over in an oak barrel in 1901.

Investigators did not return calls seeking further detail about what happened to Jones.

Jones, at the time an unemployed salesman from Canton, Michigan, gained celebrity in October 2003, when he became the first person known to survive the 180-foot plunge over Niagara Falls without a safety device. In 1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the falls wearing a life jacket and survived.

A Canadian court fined Jones $2,260 and banned him from the park for a year. After his court appearance in December 2003, he said depression had led him to climb down an embankment and float feet first over the falls but “all my problems were left at the bottom of that gorge.” He described the water like an ice bath and the pressure so great “I thought it would rip the head from my body.”

Jones began touring with the Toby Tyler Circus in Texas in January 2004. His celebrity eventually faded, and he had not been in the public eye in recent years. Police listed his current address as Spring Hill, Florida.

Attempts to reach several relatives and friends were unsuccessful Friday.

At least two other men have survived unprotected plunges over the falls since Jones did it.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Man who survived 2003 plunge at Niagara Falls now dies there

 
 
June 16
 

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — A man who occupied a fleeting spotlight after surviving a plunge over Niagara Falls without protection in 2003 has died after he went over again, this time during an apparent stunt with an inflatable ball, park police said Friday.

The body of 53-year-old Kirk R. Jones was pulled out of the water June 2 in Youngstown, where the Niagara River feeds into Lake Ontario.

The empty ball had been found earlier in the rapids above the American Falls, one of three falls known collectively as Niagara Falls. New York state park police said they believe Jones was in Niagara Falls on April 19 and may have tried to go over the falls in the large ball.

“The attempted stunt was unsuccessful, which resulted in the demise of Mr. Jones,” the park police said in a news release. Although such stunts are illegal, several daredevils have survived trips in various contraptions, beginning with Annie Edison Taylor, who rode over in an oak barrel in 1901.

Investigators did not return calls seeking further detail about what happened to Jones.

Jones, at the time an unemployed salesman from Canton, Michigan, gained celebrity in October 2003, when he became the first person known to survive the 180-foot plunge over Niagara Falls without a safety device. In 1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the falls wearing a life jacket and survived.

A Canadian court fined Jones $2,260 and banned him from the park for a year. After his court appearance in December 2003, he said depression had led him to climb down an embankment and float feet first over the falls but “all my problems were left at the bottom of that gorge.” He described the water like an ice bath and the pressure so great “I thought it would rip the head from my body.”

Jones began touring with the Toby Tyler Circus in Texas in January 2004. His celebrity eventually faded, and he had not been in the public eye in recent years. Police listed his current address as Spring Hill, Florida.

Attempts to reach several relatives and friends were unsuccessful Friday.

At least two other men have survived unprotected plunges over the falls since Jones did it.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A lucky leap of faith: Kirk Jones boasted that he knew how to survive Niagara Falls. So was Monday's astonishing plunge an impulsive act or a calculated stunt?

By BILL MICHELMORE, ANNE NEVILLE AND JAY REY

Published Wed, Oct 22, 2003

For the past month, Kirk Jones had told anyone who would listen that there was a way to plunge unprotected over Niagara Falls and live.

"He used to say, 'I believe there's a spot at the top of the falls where a man could go over the falls and survive,' " his father, Raymond Jones, related in a telephone interview with The Buffalo News from Salem, Ore. Kirk Jones, 40, an automotive parts salesman from suburban Detroit, apparently found that spot at 12:40 p.m. Monday.

Jones, however, gave a different explanation to a Detroit television station. "It was an impulsive, one-second thing, and in a second and a half I was in the water," Jones said in a telephone interview with WXYZ-TV in Detroit. "I was in the water for about eight seconds. ... I was immediately enveloped by what seemed like tons of water."

And in a phone interview with ABC News, Jones said depression led him to jump in, that he quickly had second thoughts, but it was too late, and surviving the plunge made him want to live.

"Many things together caused this depression. I honestly thought that it wasn't worth going on," Jones said from his hospital bed. "But I can tell you now after hitting the falls I feel that life is worth living.

"There was a poor lady standing above looking over the falls. When I walked over the railing, she said, 'Are you going to go?' I said, 'Yes ma'am, I think I am.' And that's when I ran down to the water, jumped in. "At that point I wished I had not done it. But I guess I knew it was way too late for that."

He said going over the falls was like being "in a giant tunnel going straight down surrounded by water" that he "hit hard," was turned upside down in the water below, then the current pushed him farther out. He climbed onto a rock.

Friends and relatives, though, said Jones left his Detroit-area home last weekend with a friend and a camera to record his stunt. There will be a price to pay; Jones faces a $10,000 fine for violating a Niagara Parks code. He could be arraigned in a St. Catharines court in the next day or two, police said.

Eyewitness accounts that were later confirmed by police and what they described as "video evidence," said Jones tumbled over the Horseshoe Falls after calmly gliding on his back toward the brink, plummeting 173 feet into the churning rapids and then climbing safely ashore 300 feet away. In the process, he found the instant fame -- or infamy -- that comes with tempting the cataracts, but with a stunt that was incredible even by Niagara's standards: Jones became only the second person to ever survive the plunge without the aid of a barrel or any other protective device.

Family members said they expect Jones to be in court Thursday and were making arrangements Tuesday to provide bail and a lawyer for him and bring him back home to the Detroit area. Jones remained under tight security and was undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Greater Niagara General Hospital on Tuesday. Apart from a couple of bruised ribs, he was reported in good condition.

His brother Keith said by phone Tuesday from their home in Canton, Mich., outside Detroit, that Kirk had become obsessed with Niagara Falls and was determined to get his name in the record books, not just alongside the others, but at the top of the list. But he was going to do it his own way -- no life preserver, no barrel, just himself and the clothes on his back.

So on Sunday, he left home with a friend, Bob Krueger, and a used video camera.

Thoughts of fame

Jones was an auto parts salesman for his father's company, GCS Emtron. But his parents recently closed the business and moved to Oregon and he hadn't been working. "He's not the bravest person in the world, but he's a very determined fellow," his father said. "He thought there would be a reward in such a feat, the reward of fame." "He got obsessed with it a month ago," Keith Jones said. "We all knew the story of the 7-year-old boy who went down in a life jacket. He said he was going to do that one better."

On July 9, 1960, Roger Woodward plunged over the Horseshoe Falls after a boating accident in the upper Niagara River and lived.

After his plunge, Jones was helped up the grassy slope to the observation platform of the Journey Behind the Falls attraction, escorted through the tunnel and placed on an elevator for the ride to the surface, Niagara Falls Parks Police Chief Tim E. Berndt said Monday.

George Bailey, who was director of communications for the Parks Commission for 24 years, spoke on Tuesday with the staffers of the Journey Behind the Falls who had seen Jones immediately after the stunt.

"They said that (Jones) was bragging about being able to do it, and was a little excited, but had no injuries. He'd lost a shoe, they said."

Keith Jones said he got a call from his brother about an hour after he completed the stunt. "He called me from the hospital," Keith Jones said. "He was as calm as heck." "Hey, I jumped the falls," Kirk Jones told his brother. "It was a long way down." "I thought the water was going to be colder, but it wasn't," he told his brother.

His parents said Krueger called them to tell what their son had done. "I was incredulous," the father said. "But at the same time I had a sense of pride."

'A whole brigade of angels'

Bailey, who is retired from the Parks Commission and now produces and hosts television travel shows, said, "Roger Woodward was quoted as saying many years ago after he went over in 1960 that he had an angel over his shoulder. Well, this guy must have had a whole brigade of angels to do what he did."

James Joyce, who has investigated hundreds of suicides in his 25 years as coroner of Niagara Falls, N.Y., said he was "baffled" at how Jones survived the plunge. "The people who go into the water (on the Canadian side) to commit suicide do nothing different from what this guy did," Joyce said.

It's likely that no one, not even Jones himself, will ever be able to explain exactly how he escaped unscathed from a seven-story fall into the roiling plunge pool below the falls.

But Wesley Hill of Niagara Falls, Ont., whose father, Red Hill Sr., was a famed lifesaver and river expert, says Roger Woodward survived because of the "water-slide effect." "The falls is just like a giant water slide," says Hill. "On the sides, near the shore, the water hits the rocks and shoots out into the river. Any object that is light enough to ride on the outside of that stream of water won't hit the rocks, because the water shoots the object out, too. And that water's also full of air, so it's a bit of a cushion."

Hill knows the water-slide theory all too well. On Aug. 5, 1951, Wesley Hill's brother, William "Red" Hill Jr., bet his life on it in a light craft made of 13 truck inner tubes -- and lost.

Dean Norton, public affairs officer for Ontario Power Generation, says the water level was high on Monday afternoon. "The water was at what would be considered full tourist flow," he said. "Between April 1 and Oct. 31, from 8 in the morning till 10 at night, there has to be a minimum of 100,000 cubic feet per second going over the falls, both the Horseshoe and the American Falls."

Wesley Hill says entering the water near Table Rock no doubt saved Jones. "If he'd gone over farther out (from shore) in the river, with hundreds of tons of water coming down on top of him, it would have killed him," said Hill.

But besides luck -- or divine intervention -- no one could explain how a man wearing only a parka and jeans could emerge unscathed at the exact spot where hundreds of suicides have plunged and perished.

Bailey said, "There's two ways of killing yourself when you go over the falls, and one is that you die immediately when you're hit by the rocks, and the other way is that you drown, and you go underneath and you may be found right away at the Maid of the Mist dock, and you may be not found. You may be found in pieces, one, two, three months later, or maybe never."

No history of mental problems

Keith Jones said his brother simply did not believe he would be killed. "I don't know how he knew he was going to live. Why he didn't think he was going to be one of the countless others and end up on a slab, I don't know."

Keith Jones said his brother doesn't have a history of psychiatric problems. "If I were to tell you he is perfectly fine and there ain't nothing wrong with him, would you believe me anyway?" his brother said.

But he said he'll have a talk with is brother. "I think it was a very foolish and dangerous thing to do, but I'm just happy he's alive," Keith Jones said.

Bailey says local residents who are aware of the power of the falls wouldn't even attempt Jones' stunt. "This guy, obviously he's not from the Falls, because people from the Falls have a lot more respect for the falls," he said.

But then Bailey voiced a grudging respect for Jones: "One thing you can't take away from the guy is that that was an extremely brave thing to do, for anybody. People are hesitant to do it in a barrel, but in a pair of jeans and a parka, this was something else."