By Rick Pfeiffer
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NIAGARA FALLS — New York State Park Police are searching for a 22-year-old man who slipped and fell into the lower Niagara River Saturday night.
"The young man had stepped onto a rock that was at a very steep angle into the water," State Park Police Lt. Patrick Moriarty said. "There was also algae on the rock making it very slippery."
Moriarty said, at that point along the shoreline in the river gorge, the water moves so swiftly that "if you put too much of your foot in there, (the current) just grabs you."
"He apparently slipped into the water and before he could grab onto something he was pulled in," Moriarty said. "He was last seen being pulled out into the middle of the river, down river from the whirlpool."
The incident occurred around 6:30 p.m. and Park Police officers, assisted by the Erie County Sheriff's Office helicopter, Air One, began an immediate search for the man. The search was called off when it became too dark and resumed on Sunday morning.
"We had Air One up again on Sunday and we searched until dark again," Moriarty said. "The helicopter will be back (this) morning and we'll keep searching. I'm not going to call it a recovery yet."
Park Police said they were not releasing the man's name, because some family members had not yet been notified.
The man was part of a group that had gone off the posted hiking trails in the gorge. Moriarty said while police were searching on Sunday, they encountered other park visitors who were placing themselves in danger.
"As we're down there looking for this man, another group of people came off the (posted) trail and it looked like they were going to start jumping from rock to rock in the water," Moriarty said. "They walked right by us and we had to tell them to get back up on the trail."
Park Police are also looking to recover the body of a woman who went over the Falls, near Prospect Point on Saturday night."
"While we were down in the gorge, searching for the man who had fallen in, at about 9:40 p.m., we got a report of a woman in the rapids, just above the falls," Moriarty said.
Officers rushed to the brink of the falls, but could not save the woman.
"She was standing in the water and then just gave up and went over (the brink)," Moriarty said.
Unlike the incident in the gorge, Park Police said this was not an accident.
"This was intentional, it was not an accident. We found a (suicide) note," Moriarty said.
Because the death was a suicide, Park Police are only identifying the victim as a 37-year-old local woman.
Moriarty said a search for the woman's body is also under way.