Man Who Survived 2003 Plunge at Niagara Falls Now Dies There

(AP) -
Kirk Jones on the American side of Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls Aug. 13, 2004. (Chip Somodevilla/Detroit Free Press via AP)

A man who occupied a fleeting spotlight after surviving a plunge over Niagara Falls without protection in 2003 has now died after he went over again, this time during an apparent stunt with an inflatable ball.

The body of 53-year-old Kirk R. Jones was pulled out of the water June 2 in Youngstown, where the Niagara River feeds into Lake Ontario, police said on Friday. The empty ball had been found earlier in the rapids above the American Falls, one of three falls known collectively as Niagara Falls.

New York state park police said they believe Jones was in Niagara Falls on April 19 and may have tried to go over the falls in the large ball.

“The attempted stunt was unsuccessful, which resulted in the demise of Mr. Jones,” the park police said in a news release.

Although such stunts are illegal, several daredevils have survived trips in various contraptions, beginning with Annie Edison Taylor, who rode over in an oak barrel in 1901.

Jones, at the time an unemployed salesman from Canton, Michigan, gained celebrity in October 2003, when he became the first person known to survive the 180-foot plunge over Niagara Falls without a safety device. In 1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the falls wearing a life jacket and survived.

A Canadian court fined Jones $2,260 and banned him from the park for a year. He later said that depression had led him to climb down an embankment and float feet first over the falls but “all my problems were left at the bottom of that gorge.” He described the water like an ice bath and the pressure so great “I thought it would rip the head from my body.”

His celebrity eventually faded, and he had not been in the public eye in recent years. At least two other men have survived unprotected plunges over the falls since Jones did it.