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Going Over the Edge at Niagara's Rainbow Falls - Horrible Tragedy

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Published on Jun 26, 2008

Going Over the Edge at Niagara's Rainbow Falls - also known as Niagara's American Falls: Neither suicide nor daredevil, a horrible tragedy by a man who over medicated.

I was contacted by this man's family. He was a pharmacist, named Robert Ahrens, from the Tonawanda, NY. area. His body was recovered and medication found in his system. It is believed he over medicated and was not fully cognizant of his actions at the time he jumped in the water. His family firmly believes this was not a willful suicide act.

Death of any sort (accident or suicide) is not funny; lessons should be learned. This took place in the 1980s (often suggested to be 1985). News reporter, Phil Kavitz, and videographer, Larry Frazier, were recording a report at Prospect Point for Buffalo TV News 2 when a man jumped into the water and went over Rainbow (American) Falls.

Some people think it looks like he tripped or slipped. If you've been in this area, you would know that it's not a totally unimpeded dash to the water. The family believes that he did not know of the danger and did not know exactly where he was. In this area the Niagara is fast moving and relatively shallow. He appears from his position and shoulders, above the water, as if he is paddling or was holding a small item that held him up.

This is definitely not a stunt. It is only a coincidence of circumstance that a news crew was in the area which afforded a final documented moment in history.

This area is the Niagara Falls heavy tourist area of Prospect Point, along the Tonawanda (American) Channel, bounded by Goat Island and Luna Island on the far side (SW) of the channel and Prospect Point on the near side (NE). It is slightly upstream of the brink of the American Falls (NW). The Niagara River/strait flows North 36 miles (58 km) from Lake Erie on the South to Lake Ontario on the North. In this area the water averages 2 to 3 feet deep with class VI (heavy) rapids, at speeds up to 3 feet per second. The depth and speed are affected by the amount of water diverted for power. Daylight hours in tourist season 50% of the water is diverted for power; 75% is diverted during winter and at night in tourist season. The rapids above the Falls is created by a 50-55ft (16m) drop in the rock strata from Chippewa-Grass Island Pool to the brink of the Falls.

Susan Banks was the news anchor at Ch 2, and no longer works there (maybe Buffalo Ch 7 now). I have not found a recent update about Kavitz or Frazier.

I'll put up any info if anyone has more information or more accurate information.

Niagara Falls consists of the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls, Bridal Veil (Luna) Falls, and Rainbow (American) Falls. The international border passes along the tip of Terrapin Point on Goat Island, NY, which puts much of Horseshoe Falls in Ontario, Canada, and the other two Falls in New York, US.

The power and the majesty of Niagara Falls is overwhelming, making the Falls one of the most beautiful places on earth. You can get up close and personal with the Falls in many safe ways. The Maid of the Mist (US and Canada), the Cave of the Winds (US), and Journey Behind the Falls (Canada) are amazing.

---------- Suicides and Other Deaths at Niagara -----------

Unfortunately, some people visit Niagara Falls for non-tourist reasons. Every year there are 12 to 18 known suicides at Niagara Falls (not all bodies are recovered), compared to about 25 a year at the Golden Gate Bridge. Other people perform stunts over the falls, and some people have river recreation accidents and get rescued or meet their death over the falls.

Suicide awareness, proper help and the support of friends and loved ones could prevent a vast number of these deaths. The danger of this and any river can prevent needless accidental deaths.

The lure of the Falls for suicide is well documented, but in recent years, the publicity is presumed to inspire more people to choose the Falls to meet their end. It begs the question, why more isn't done to curb suicide at it's source, and more done for mental health and substance overuse or abuse services.

At the Falls, many people, both men and women, have gone into the rapids quietly, calmly, and often without witnesses. Due to the rocks at the bottom of the American (Rainbow) Falls, there is a lure to the expectation of a quick finality and a hope that their body won't be found - although many are pushed out by the force of the water and recovered. Often the only facts of the suicide are notes, letters, personal belongings, and clothes left behind.

Some reports show that most suicides (maybe 90%) are over Horseshoe Falls, and that 90% of those survive the plunge but die by drowning at the bottom (the mechanics of a huge waterfall is described like a slide on a cushion of water bubbles). With the suicide jumper of 11 Mar 2009, only three people without major protection are known to fully survive without a scratch.

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