NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – State Parks police say a 37-year-old man tried to climb over the railing and along the ledge of the Rainbow Bridge when he slipped and fell onto the rocks of the gorge.
Officers say a call to 911 came in around 8:40 p.m. Wednesday. Officials with Customs and Border Protection say the man, who lived in the United States illegally, entered the bridge from the U.S. side of the border, but wanted to avoid customs checkpoints standing between him and U.S. soil.
“Because this is Rainbow Bridge, you’ve got a view of the falls, a lot of people come out here to take photos,” said Aaron Bowker, a Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer at the Port of Buffalo. “We’re still investigating this at this time, but it appears, from what we can see, he was out here taking photos and then he – not really why he tried to go around it this way, but at this time it looks like he may have been trying to avoid seeing us, seeing CBP.”
The man fell 100 feet from the bridge onto the rocks in the gorge below.
A tall fence tops the concrete barrier at the edge of the pedestrian walkway where the man fell from the bridge’s edge. A barbed wire coil hangs vertically on the outside of the fence to prevent people from climbing over. Bowker said the man fell while trying to get around that coil.
“It’s tragic,” he said. “The fences are here, the barbed wire is here to deter people from trying to do this. We want them to come see us. Everybody has to go through inspection when they’re going back into the United States.”
Crews had to rappel off the bridge and hike to the area of the gorge where the man fell to recover his body.
“This is the last thing we want to see happen,” Bowker added, “But at the same time, we do have to secure our borders. This is one of the things that we do have. We do have barbed wire up around the fence so that people can’t scale it.”
The inbound lanes of the bridge were closed for several hours during the recovery operations. All lanes reopened around 12:45 a.m. Thursday. Police await results of an autopsy to further their investigation.