It is estimated that at least 5,000 people have died as a result of falling or jumping over Niagara Falls. According to local officials, 20-40 people commit suicide at the falls every single year. And then there are the daredevils who hope to survive the fall with a wild story to share. In both the US and Canada, it is illegal to go over the falls, but that hasn’t stopped countless people from trying it—some survive, and some don’t.
In 2003, Kurk Jones was the first person to survive an unprotected plunge over the falls. 14-years later, in April 2017, Jones attempted to go over the falls again, this time inside of an inflatable ball. Sadly, Jones wasn’t so lucky this time around. His body was discovered 6-weeks after his daring attempt.
Surviving a fall from Niagara Falls is difficult to say the least, and most people agree it all boils down to luck. For starters, on the way down you could very likely hit one of the jagged rocks. Then, once your body hits the water, you’ll be tossed this way and that, making it nearly impossible to tell which way is up. Meanwhile, debris could get knocked into you and render you unconscious. Plus, the water is freezing cold, and you’ve got about 15 minutes to make it out before your body goes into shock.
What Happens to the Human Body After Extreme Water Impact?
Niagara Falls is around 167-feet tall. Falling from such great heights can cause a lot of damage to the human body. In 1986, Richard Snyder published the study Fatal Injuries Resulting from Extreme Water Impact, in which he analyzed autopsy reports from 169 people who had jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. For comparison, the Golden Gate Bridge is 220-feet tall.
Snyder found that around 26.6% of jumpers would have survived the impact, but they drowned to death. Over 50% of people suffered broken rib cages and/or ruptured livers upon impact. 30% had head injuries. 3 out of 4 jumpers had fractured ribs that penetrated the lungs. Additionally, due to sudden pressure change, heart and blood vessels commonly ruptured. Snyder also noted shattered bone and cartilage commonly caused organ damage.
Snyder found that body positioning impacted the chance someone survived a fall. Falling into water feet first gives you the best chance to survive. Landing head first is your next best bet, and landing on your belly or side gives you the lowest likelihood of survival.
Source: Popular Mechanics