- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario — A man who went over Niagara Falls with only the clothes on his back and survived will be charged with illegally performing a stunt, Niagara Parks Police said yesterday.

Kirk Jones, 40, of Canton, Mich., is the first person known to have gone over Niagara Falls without safety devices and lived. He could be fined $10,000.

Brian Merrett, chairman of Niagara Parks Commission, called the stunt “stupid.”

“Our people went down in the gorge and got him,” Mr. Merrett said. “That’s why we don’t condone this. It puts all of our people — the fire department, the paramedics, everyone — at risk to do the rescues. That’s why were are so adamant about stunting.”

Stunned tourists described seeing Mr. Jones float by on his back Monday in the swift Niagara River, go headfirst over the churning 180-foot waterfall and then pull himself out of the water onto the rocks below.

“He just looked calm. He just was gliding by so fast. I was in shock really that I saw a person go by,” visitor Brenda McMullen told WIVB-TV in Buffalo, N.Y.

Mr. Jones was not seriously injured and remained hospitalized in Niagara Falls in stable condition.

Police said they were ruling out the possibility it was a suicide attempt.

“We are investigating it as an intentional act,” Niagara Parks Police Inspector Paul Fortier said.

He said psychological tests were being conducted at the hospital.

Mr. Fortier said police have a videotape of the act that they believe was made by someone who accompanied Jones. That person has not been charged.

Water rushes over the falls at a rate of 150,000 gallons per second.

Only one other person is known to have survived a plunge over the Canadian-side Horseshoe Falls without a barrel or other contraption: a 7-year-old boy who was wearing a life preserver when he was thrown into the water in a 1960 boating accident.

No one has ever survived a trip — with or without safety devices — over the narrower and rockier American Falls.

Since 1901, 15 daredevils have taken the plunge in barrels or other devices, including a kayak and a personal watercraft. Ten survived, said Niagara Falls historian Paul Gromosiak, who has written books on the subject.

Suicides are not uncommon at Niagara Falls, though police are reluctant to give numbers.

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