MONTREAL (AFP) – A Canadian helicopter pilot was being hailed Sunday as a hero after mounting a daring weekend rescue, plucking two New York policemen from their stranded boat in swirling waters just above Niagara Falls.
The Toronto Star newspaper reported that the US officers — who themselves were out on the water overnight to rescue four teenagers trapped on their powerless motorboat — had become disoriented in blinding fog, and dropped anchor within earshot of the crashing water to avoid going over the falls.
“They could hear the falls, they could see the falls, they could smell the falls. It was a desperate situation for them,” Ruedi Hafen, the Canada-based helicopter pilot called on to perform the rescue in US waters, told the Star.
The boat was some 275 meters (900 feet) from the crest of Horseshoe Falls, and Hafen said the anchor most likely saved them from being swept over the 53-meter (174-foot) falls to their deaths.
“If the anchor would have let go they would have had no chance. They would have gone over,” he said.
Hafen, who owns a private firm that conducts helicopter tours over the falls, said he was awakened at dawn Saturday after a shore-based rescue failed.
He positioned his helicopter over the boat, and a Niagara Parks Police officer was lowered down a 33-meter (100-foot) cable, rescuing the men one at a time and flying them to shore.
The falls, the most powerful in North America and a major tourism draw, is on the Niagara River and forms part of the US-Canada border.