In a daring mission just yards from the brink of Niagara Falls, U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew members on Wednesday pulled a woman’s body from a vehicle almost completely submerged in the frigid rapids.
Those in the area started calling authorities around noon local time after seeing a black vehicle floating down the Niagara river, New York State Park Police Capt. Chris Rola said. A person seen inside wasn’t moving, he added.
By the time crews got to the area, the vehicle was about 50 yards from the falls.
Temperatures in the area were around freezing and water temperatures were in around 43 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Rola said swift-water rescue crews couldn’t reach the vehicle due to the “inherent danger” and called the U.S. Coast Guard to help. The dramatic rescue was caught in pictures and video posted on social media, showing the car almost completely submerged with only part of the roof and an open trunk hatch visible through the whitewater.
A diver for the Coast Guard was slowly lowered from the helicopter. The diver, who was carrying an ax, climbed into the car and pulled out the body of its lone occupant, a woman in her late 60s, authorities said. She was pronounced dead after being taken ashore.
Rola said it’s unclear how or why the woman drove into the river, but he said the vehicle entered in an area between a pedestrian bridge and vehicle bridge. He said authorities were investigating.
Rola said the woman lived in the area. Her name was not released pending notification of relatives.
After the rescue, the vehicle remained about 50 yards from the brink of the American Falls, one of three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls. Onlookers watched as emergency crews prepared to try to pull the vehicle from the water.
Roads in the area were slippery as light snow fell.
Contributing: Associated Press