Some daredevils have plummeted over Niagara Falls in contraptions that range from a steel and wood barrel to tractor-trailer inner-tubes surrounded by a fiberglass capsule. Others have shot down the rapids in devices, and some have even swam the rapids. Some have survived and others have perished. On a July afternoon in 1960, a young brother and sister became unsuspecting daredevils at Niagara Falls.
Jim Honeycutt, who lived in Niagara Falls, New York, took the brother and sister – Roger Woodward and Deanna Woodward – for a boat ride in the upper Niagara River. When the watercraft developed engine problems and capsized, the three passengers were tossed into the river upstream from the falls. Honeycutt was swiftly carried over the edge and dropped to his death, but the Woodward children were more fortunate.
Roger, who was seven years old at the time and dressed in only a bathing suit and a life jacket, was also swept over the falls, but unlike Honeycutt the boy survived. He became the first person to plunge over the falls clad in just a life preserver and live to tell his story.
While her brother was swept over the falls, Deanna was in the water near the bank of the Niagara River. Hundreds of spectators watched helplessly as the currents carried her closer to the edge while the 17-year-old girl fought hard in the waves.
Two spectators watching the spectacle decided to risk their lives to rescue Deanna. John R. Haynes, a truck driver from New Jersey, climbed over the rail and extending an arm for the girl to grab. Deanna was exhausted and Haynes encouraged her to kick with every bit of energy she could muster. She gripped Haynes’ finger, but the man was worried that she would not be able to hold on.
Haynes yelled to the crowd, and another New Jersey native answered. John Quattrochi
helped pull Deanna from the raging river just feet from plunging to her probable death.
As Deanna was retrieved from the river, her brother bobbed like an apple in the turbulent water below the falls. Fortunately for the boy, the Maid of the Mist was making its turn below the falls when the captain spotted Roger’s bright orange life jacket. Multiple attempts were made to throw Roger a rope, and finally he was safely lifted on board.
Sean- we have this photo in our collection
On the 30th anniversary of the incident in 1990, Roger and Deanna returned to Niagara Falls. Roger, who was 37 at the time, spoke to a captivated audience about the ordeal.
Roger, then 37 spoke to a hushed audience about his ordeal some thirty years earlier. He spoke of that day as if it had only happened yesterday, the events of that day imprinted forever on his young mind.
The “Miracle at Niagara Falls” is just one of many stories detailed at the new Daredevil Gallery at Niagara IMAX Theatre. The daredevil exhibit features the world’s largest collection of Niagara Falls history, including actual barrels and artifacts along with the engaging stories of Niagara’s heritage and tales of the daredevils.