NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — A U.S. Coast Guard diver lowed from the sky Wednesday braved frigid rapids to get to a car submerged in water near the brink of Niagara Falls, only to find it was too late to rescue the driver trapped inside.
The diver was lowered from a hovering helicopter, climbed into the car and pulled out the body of its lone occupant, a woman in her 60s, officials from New York’s State Park Police said.
Video shows the rescuer, in an orange suit and a helmet, fighting against strong wind and water to enter through the passenger side of the black car.
“It was an incredible job by the Coast Guard,” Park Police Capt. Christopher Rola said at a news conference.
It was unclear how the car got into the Niagara River. Witnesses reported seeing it floating near a pedestrian bridge, where it was believed to have gone in. Roads in the area were slippery as a light snow fell.
Photos and videos taken by bystanders showed the car almost completely submerged with only part of the roof and open trunk hatch visible through the whitewater in the early afternoon.
Police used a drone to determine it was occupied.
Authorities said the woman lived in the area. Her name was not released pending notification of her relatives.
After the rescue, the vehicle remained about 50 yards (meters) from the brink of the American Falls, one of three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls. Onlookers watched as emergency crews prepared to try to pull the vehicle from the water.
Rola said the State Park department’s swift-water rescue teams had been unable to get to the car because of its location.
Niagara Falls has a history of attracting both daredevils who try to cheat death by plunging over in homemade contraptions, and those driven by suicide.
Rescuers, however, had never been called for a vehicle so close to the edge, Rola said.
He said investigators would try to determine whether the vehicle wound up in the water by accident or intentionally.