NIAGARA FALLS, NY — A Tennessee stunt man was missing yesterday after going over Niagara Falls in a kayak, Canadian police said.

"It's just solid rock down there. People don't realize that." The red kayak was recovered below Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. "All in one piece ... in fairly good condition, all things considered," said Maureen Quinn, a constable with the Niagara Parks Police.

But she said authorities "found nothing else, just the kayak. No body's been found."

The Canadian falls, the world's largest by volume, are 181 feet high, or about as tall as a 13-story building.

Another constable, Kim Davis, said the 28-year-old man was trying to complete a stunt that had been planned for about 10 years. Police said nobody had ever tried to kayak over the falls.

"Barrels, yes," said Quinn of other attempts to go over the falls in enclosed capsules and live. But she said, "it doesn't seem plausible he could do it [and survive]."

Quinn said police received a call that the stunt man had entered the water about a half-mile above the falls but "by the time we responded it was too late ... [He] actually went over the brink."

The man, whose identity was not disclosed pending notification of next of kin, was last seen about 1:45 p.m. EDT, Quinn said.

At a press conference later yesterday, police showed reporters a videotape a tourist made of the incident.

The film shows a man in a kayak successfully negotiating the rapids of the Niagara River just before the falls. Then, he disappears.

"It's beyond me why anyone would attempt this," said George Bailey of the Niagara Parks Commission. "He obviously doesn't know our falls."

Dave Mundy, who went over the falls in a steel barrel three years ago, said people who try such stunts are usually not aware of the dangers of the falls.

"A lot of people underestimate what's at the bottom," he said. "I did myself. It's just solid rock down there. People don't realize that."


Our stuntman's estimate of his own capabilities must have been supreme indeed, because, as shown in the videotape mentioned in the article, which was aired on national television, he hadn't even bothered wearing a life-vest. For those unfamiliar with kayaks, they are small, one-man canoes of Eskimo origin, completely covered except for a small central opening in which the kayaker sits. The kayaker propells the craft with a double-bladed paddle.

It seems quite strange that, after an entire decade of planning, the stuntman hadn't figured out that surviving a stunt like his is irrefutably impossible. This oddity, considered with the fact that he hadn't even donned a life-vest, forces me to conclude that the man really wanted to commit suicide. Either that, or we all could be the victims of some bizarre hoax. After all, his body has yet to be recovered.