NIAGARA FALLS, New York — A Coast Guard diver lowered from a helicopter had to deal with swift currents and freezing cold water Wednesday in an attempt to pull a woman from a car that somehow ended up in the water near the top of the American Falls.
The swimmer was able to remove the woman from the car in the dangerous mission. The woman, a local resident who was in her 60s whose identity has not been released, did not survive, according to the Associated Press.
Authorities are now trying to figure out how the car ended up in the river about 50 yards from the top of the American Falls. The car was spotted floating down the river near a pedestrian bridge just before noon, WKBW Channel 7 reports.
Police say the vehicle entered the river between the pedestrian bridge and a vehicle bridge. There was no one else in the car, according to the Buffalo News.
The car reportedly was still in the river Wednesday evening as officials tried to figure out the safest way to remove it.
Meanwhile, the rescue effort by Petty Officer 2nd Class Derrian Duryea and the helicopter crew, pilot Lt. Chris Monacelli and flight mechanic Jon Finnerty, is drawing worldwide attention, reports say. All had to endure dangerous conditions … Duryea with the currents and cold water, and the crew with concerns about icing on the aircraft as it hovered about 80 feet above the water.
“As I was coming down I was just really focused on how am I going to get in this car when there’s, you know, pretty much rapids coming over the car right next to Niagara Falls,” Duryea tells the AP. “My sole focus was which window or door am I going in.”
“Luckily, the car was unlocked and I didn’t have to break out any windows and I was able to open up the passenger side door and push it up against the current.”
Monacelli tells the AP that ice buildup on the helicopter from the mist of the river limited his visibility during the rescue operation.
“A lot of bigger planes have deicing capabilities, but we don’t,” Monacelli said. “We have a lot of discussions and training for what we’d do if we got into that situation because if you do accumulate enough ice on the helicopter, it will fall out of the sky.”
New York Park Police Capt. Christopher Rola said his department’s swift-water rescue teams were unable to get to the car because of its location.
“It was an incredible job by the Coast Guard,” Rola said at a news conference.