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‘We don’t believe it’s an accident’: Woman dies and 5-year-old son in critical condition after falling into gorge at Niagara Falls

A scene from a fall at Niagara Falls

A scene from the location of a fall at Niagara Falls on Feb. 13, 2023. Image via screengrab/WGRZ.

A 5-year-old boy was rescued from near the very bottom of the Niagara Gorge in Niagara Falls State Park after he and his mother apparently jumped into the unwelcoming elements for unknown reasons.

The mother, however, was unable to be saved.

“Unfortunately, the female did not make it,” New York State Park Police Capt. Chris Rola said during a press conference.

Police received multiple calls about an adult woman and a child in the gorge near the Cave of the Winds Pavilion on the afternoon in question and responded at around 12:30 p.m., Rola said.

“Our rescuers, along with Niagara Falls Fire Department, were able to reach pretty quickly both of the victims,” the police captain said.

Law enforcement noted that the mother and child fell some 90 feet – not quite the bottom of the gorge but close to it. The conditions for rescuers were apparently not ideal due to recent extremely cold weather and rain.

“Although today it’s nice out, it’s very icy down there,” Rola said. “It’s real tough terrain that our guy and our girls were able to get through and get to them and provide that life-saving care and do everything they could but, as far as putting other people at risk, we were going to make every effort for that child that was still alive at the time.”

The boy is severely injured but expected to survive.

Police said the boy suffered a head injury and was transported to Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York.

“He was stable enough to be brought out and taken up on the elevator for the Cave of the Winds,” Rola said. “He was then transported by Mercy Flight.”

The mother, however, was found dead. She was transported out of the gorge in a basket, police said.

Law enforcement have declined to identify the woman or the child involved in the fall, but the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal cited “sources” saying they were believed to be tourists visiting the area.

In a press release issued on Valentine’s Day, the NYSPP said they would not be releasing the identities of those involved due to the boy’s young age and the ongoing investigation.  Western District Commander Maj. Clyde Doty confirmed that the “family involved is not from the immediate area.”

The NYSPP thanked the “Niagara Falls Fire Department and Park Police officers that traversed the more than 300 feet of dangerous icy terrain to provide lifesaving measures to both individuals,” the press release added. “New York State Park Police would like to extend their condolences to the family during this tremendously difficult time.”

According to police, the husband of the deceased was with his family at some point prior to the fall, but law enforcement are currently trying to work out what, exactly, happened immediately before. The husband has been interviewed as part of the investigation, police noted.

“There’s multiple people there and they are being interviewed,” Rola said during the press conference. “That’s all part of the investigation. They’re all being interviewed, but we don’t believe it’s an accident.”

According to Rola, police and firefighters had “to traverse the side of the gorge” to reach the woman and her son.

Multiple agencies took part in the daring rescue operation.

“Niagara Falls is a tough place to perform rescues and we have swift water rescue team we have high angle rope rescue guys that train all the time,” Rola said. “Niagara Falls fire [department] is great, and as you can see, the State Police are a great partner with us and their aviation crews top notch.”

As of Tuesday morning, the boy has undergone surgery and remains in critical condition.

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