Just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Airbus Helicopters Dolphin from Air Station Detroit extracted a woman from a car floating in New York’s Niagara River, lodged against rocks a mere 20 yards from the American Falls. The 80-foot hoist line operation was conducted as the MH-65 took on frozen mist from the falls that limited the air crew’s visibility. MH-65s are not equipped with deicing equipment.
While cars have ended up in the river before, “we have never had a vehicle in the water this close to the brink,” said New York State Park Police Capt. Chris Rola. He said the windy, low-visibility conditions in freezing temperatures at Niagara Falls made rescue by boat untenable.
A police drone previously confirmed that the vehicle was occupied. By the time the helicopter arrived, the woman, the vehicle’s sole occupant, was deceased and the body was transported to shore. How her car got into the river remains under investigation.
The Coast Guard currently operates nearly 100 MH-65s from bases on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and Hawaii.