Woman dead after daring rescue attempt just 150 feet from brink of Niagara Falls

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WGRZ/WHEC) — A woman is dead after a dramatic rescue attempt along the Niagara River, right near the falls themselves Wednesday.

Our Buffalo-area affiliate, WGRZ, is reporting that shortly before noon, witnesses told State Parks Police that they saw a car floating down the river before it got stuck on some rocks, about 150 feet before the falls.

State Parks Police Captain Chris Rola told WGRZ that a Swift Water Rescue Team would not be able to attempt a rescue because of where the car was.

"There is inherent danger," Rola said. "And all the Park Police members have some swift water training. Then we have specialists with the Swift Water Rescue Team of seven better-trained individuals to a higher level. And adjust to, not only the proximity of the falls but, it’s the ability to walk out to that vehicle and just not having a point, two points of contact. We could not go into that water to make that determination."

Police used a drone to find out how many people were inside the car and get a reading of the license plate while they waited for a Coast Guard helicopter to arrive. On their side of the river, Canadian Police looked for any sign someone had made it to shore there.

A rescue swimmer was lowered down from the helicopter and was able to pull the driver, a woman in her 60s, from the vehicle, but she was found to be deceased.

Parks Police say the woman was from Western New York and that her family has been notified, but at this time, they are still not releasing her name.

Park Police believe she somehow drove into the river around the first street bridge to Goat Island, upstream of the falls.

“Drove in between the pedestrian bridge and the vehicle bridge," Rola said.

Rola said the next step is to remove the vehicle from the water.

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During a press conference Thursday, Rola said the path the driver took and her mental health history has led investigators to believe that she likely intentionally drove into the river.

When asked why, Rola specified that the car had to clear several obstacles in order to get into the water.

Rola said the car has shifted position since Wednesday and is now resting on its roof.

The Maid of the Mist and other activities at the falls are currently closed, Rola said.

Rola said there is no evidentiary value to the car, and it’s in a place where getting it out of the river is dangerous, so Operations will decide how to safely get it out. He said there is no rush at this time because if the car does go down the falls, it will not hurt anyone.