Not all of Niagara’s “daredevils” made their fateful journeys by choice. Perhaps one of the most miraculous trips took place at Niagara Falls on Saturday afternoon, July 9, 1960. Jim Honeycutt from Niagara Falls, New York, took two children, Roger Woodward and his sister Deanne, for a boat ride in the upper Niagara River. The 12-foot aluminum fishing boat equipped with a 7.5 horsepower motor got caught in the fast flowing current, breaking a pin in the engine and capsized after hitting a shoal. All three occupants were thrown into the upper rapids. Honeycutt went over the Falls and was killed. At the same time, 17 year old Deanne swam to the very edge of the Falls and her seven year old brother, wearing only a life jacket and a bathing suit, went over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The siblings came out alive to tell their story.
Luckily, one of the Maid of the Mist boats was churning its way below the Falls when a crew member spotted Roger’s bright orange life jacket. Captain Clifford Keech maneuvered his boat so that the crew could pick up the boy on the starboard side. After two unsuccessful attempts, a life preserver landed within reach of the crying youngster. Lifted safely on board the vessel, Roger mumbled his concern about his sister. Within the hour, word spread of this Niagara miracle. Roger was taken to the hospital in Niagara Falls, Ontario where he remained for three days with only a slight concussion.
While Roger’s rescue attempt played out, another miracle occurred at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls on the American side at Terrapin Point. Deanne Woodward was being furiously swept towards the brink of the Falls. Hundreds stood almost paralyzed with concern for the plight of the young girl. Two men, both from New Jersey but still strangers, sprang into action. John R. Hayes, a truck driver, climbed over the rail, stretched out his arm and pleaded with Deanne to swim harder. She caught his thumb just before going over the Falls. Fearful the current would break his hold on the young girl, Hayes shouted for help. John Quattrochi climbed over the railing and the two men pulled the terrified teenager to safety. Receiving only a cut on her hand, Deanne was rushed to a hospital in Niagara Falls, New York where she learned of her brother’s miraculous fate. Reflecting on the accident years later, Roger Woodward said, "It wasn't the hand of fate, it wasn't the hand of luck, it was the spirit of the living God that saved my life that day.”
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094