Historic Niagara Falls Accidents

Historic Niagara Falls Accidents

Niagara Falls has long been a beautiful site for tourists from all over the world to take in. Being the most powerful waterfall in the world with endless tourist attractions to enjoy, Niagara Falls sees millions of visitors every year. But with such enormous natural forces at play, there is some degree of danger.

Throughout it’s tourism history there have been some incredible accidents in the Niagara Falls region. Luckily most of these have not been repeated making Niagara Falls a safe and amazing place for visitors to experience with their families.

White Water Rafting 

Any adrenaline junkie that has been to Niagara Falls has surely imagined what it would be like to rip through the class 6 rapids in an inflatable raft. Well, this has already been done several times in the past and the story did not have a happy ending.


On August 29th 1975, Niagara Gorge River Trips Inc. was doing their 11th trial run of a new rafting excursion through the Niagara River rapids, which pass through the infamous whirlpool rapids. They were using a 37 foot long rubber and nylon inflatable raft intending to carry 27 tourists and two pilots from the Maid of the Mist dock to Lewiston New York five miles down stream for a cost of $20 per passenger.

Two miles into the journey, as the raft was passing through the whirlpool rapids, the raft capsized tossing everyone into the wild waters below. Of the 29 passengers on board, 3 of them passed away during the ordeal and 3 other were admitted to a nearby hospital with life threatening injuries. On top of this, one of the rescue workers who was driving a rescue boat died of a heart attach as he tried to salvage the 37 ft raft from the whirlpool rapids.

White water rafting is no longer available at the Niagara River, however, tourists can take part in the heart pumping action packed Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours which is a much safer option, still getting you up close an personal with the Niagara Whirlpool.

Rainbow Helicopter Tour

Helicopter tours have long been one of the best ways to view Niagara Falls and the surrounding area giving passengers a birds eye view of this natural wonder. Some of these tours, however, were not as successful as they now are.

On May 31 1989 one of Rainbow Helicopters sightseeing tours had a very close call. As the pilot was flying passengers along the Niagara Gorge toward the Falls, he was too low, nearly causing a disastrous accident. Due to the low cruising altitude, the landing rails of the helicopter struck the wire cables of the Spanish Aero Car ripping off the landing rails. By sheer luck, the helicopter narrowly missed an aero car carrying 17 passengers at the time and did not damage the cables.

helicopter over whitewater on the niagara river

The pilot now had a difficult endeavor on his hands; how was he going to safely land a helicopter missing landing rails without flipping the vehicle. As he approached the nearby Whirlpool Golf Course, the pilot hovered a few feet above the ground instructing his passengers to jump out and run to a safe distance. Once they were at a safe distance he carefully landed the helicopter, managing to keep everyone on board the helicopter and the aero car safe.

Back in those days, the minimum cruising altitude of helicopter tours was only 500 feet over undeveloped areas. This regulation has since been changed making helicopter tours of the Niagara Region much safer than they once were.

Goat Island Rescue Mission

On October 7th 1973, the motor of a boat carrying 4 passengers on the upper Niagara River struck a rock causing it to stop functioning. The passengers quickly jumped out of the boat, which at the time was near goat island, and walked over to the island awaiting to be rescued as they watched the boat go over the Horseshoe Falls.

The first rescue attempt was from a sightseeing helicopter. As the helicopter hovered over the stranded victims, one of the stranded men grabbed one of the struts of the helicopter causing it to tilt. This caused the main rotor of the helicopter to strike the water, making the chopper burst into flames. Luckily all of the rescuers on the helicopter were able to jump out in time saving their lives. But now instead of 4 stranded people on goat island there were 8.

rescue mission

A second rescue attempt was now on it’s way. This time it was a police boat with three officers on board. As the boat approached, the propeller broke sending it into an uncontrollable path. Two of the officers immediately jumped out making their way to shallow waters while the third waited until he was about 300 meters away from the edge of the falls. At this point the third officer jumped out and managed to grab hold of a tree from Solon Island.

Officers at shore quickly formed a human chain to rescue the stranded officer and approximately 2 hours later a safety rope was put together to bring the other 10 stranded people to safety. Amazingly, no one in this ordeal suffered any serious injuries.