NIAGARA FALLS – Two people in a disabled boat drifted close to the brink of the Horseshoe Falls on Sunday, before parks police could get the water level lowered on the Niagara River and rescue the boaters.
The boaters called the Coast Guard for help just after 11 p.m. after their 18-foot vessel was disabled in the upper Niagara River.
The Coast Guard, using GPS coordinates, was able to determine the drifting boaters were just outside the “exclusion zone” above the falls.
The boaters were instructed to drop anchor. A Coast Guard crew responded in a boat, but stopped at the exclusion zone boundary.
State Park Police responded via water and land and tried to float a tow line to the boaters.
That’s when responders contacted river control officials, who lowered water levels in the river, a process that’s done by diverting flows into channels that feed hydropower plants on both sides of the border.
That caused the boat to ground just south of Goat Island, and the boat’s anchor was able to stop its drift towards the falls. But the anchors couldn’t hold, and the lower unit of the boat’s motor held it in place.
A crew aboard the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Air One helicopter tried to hoist the boaters to safety, but several attempts failed, and efforts stopped “due to safety concerns,” the Coast Guard said.
Coast Guard officials in Buffalo requested a helicopter from its facility in Detroit, but State Park Police were able to successfully float a tow line to the vessel before that helicopter arrived.
Both people were taken off the vessel safely and it was towed to shore.
The Coast Guard did not identify the boaters, nor did it say precisely how close the boat got to the brink of the falls.