Sunday, June 19, 2011

U.S. cops rescued from edge of Niagara Falls

NIAGARA FALLS, ONT. - Two American police officers needed a rescue from a Canadian helicopter pilot when their boat became stranded in a river here Saturday after they themselves rescued four teens from a disabled motorboat headed toward the falls.

And the stranded officers couldn't wait to get out of their troubled boat, their rescuer said.

"They were both very excited," Ruedi Hafen, a pilot with Niagara Helicopters, said Saturday after he'd been involved in the rescue. "They both wanted to get off that boat."

At about 2 a.m. Saturday, New York State Parks police got a call about a disabled vessel with four people aboard. The boat was in the Niagara River near the Three Sisters Islands, about 275 metres from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, Sgt. Mark Van Wie said.

The boaters were near the water intake area for the hydroelectric plants on the American side of the river, and well inside an area off limits to boats.

It wasn't clear to police where the people aboard the 18-foot motorboat were from or whether they'd run out of gas or encountered engine trouble, Van Wie said.

Two New York parks officers set out in their own boat to rescue the stranded teens. They got them back to shore, but in the course of the rescue, at about 4:15 a.m., their own boat ran into trouble because of heavy fog.

The officers dropped anchor and waited for a rescue.

A helicopter in Erie County, N.Y., was fogged in and couldn't help. The Canadian Coast Guard in Trenton was too far away.

So Hafen's team swung into action.

Hafen flew his helicopter out with an employee and Niagara Parks Police officer Const. Shawn Black, who was lowered to the boat to give the two stranded officers harnesses.

Hafen made two trips from the boat to shore, each time with one of the stranded officers and Black dangling from a 33-metre line attached to the bottom of his blue Bell helicopter -- a far cry from the chopper's usual role, giving tourists a bird's eye view of the falls.

At about 8:30 a.m., four hours after the two stranded officers anchored their boat, they were finally back on shore.

Saturday afternoon, the abandoned boat was still anchored in the river, only the windshield visible.

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