by Tiffany Hyman
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours is being credited with saving a St. Louis woman's life.
On Monday around 12:45 p.m., it was a hectic scene on the Niagara River near Devil's Hole: a man was screaming at the top of his lungs to help his fiancée, who had fallen while hiking as she tried to touch the whirling water.
The woman fell downstream from Whirlpool State Park. The crosscurrents are one of the worst places along the water to fall. A Whirlpool jet boat crew saw her after they spotted a frantic and hysterical man on shore pointing to the water. The victim was in the water for one-and-a-half minutes as she tried to keep herself afloat.
"The currents are extremely, extremely turbulent," said Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours owner John Kinney. "It's a very bad spot to fall in. Thank God she's alive."
The woman, who remains unidentified, is OK thanks to the quick actions of the jet boat crew. According to the State Parks Police, the woman was transported to Mount St. Mary Hospital and Health Center and then to the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, where she is expected to make a full recovery, with no repercussions.
"This is something we do," said Kinney. "As owner, I'm thrilled our boats were at the right place, right time."
"They just happened to be at the area at the time," said Lt. Patrick Moriarty of the New York Parks Police. "They realized what happened, and maneuvered the boat over towards her."
Kinney explained the company's overboard rescue training provides employees with three ways to assist victims. The ring buoy is the most common - it is a flotation device; the rescue bag is a 60-foot bag of rope for a person a significant distance away and used for conscious people; and the telescopic pole with which the St. Louis woman was rescued. The pole extends to reach out to those who are unconscious and pulls them ashore.
Kinney credits the trip leader, a young woman, for not only saving the woman's life by performing CPR, using a telescopic pole and bringing her back to shore, but also managing to keep 40-plus passengers calm. He also thanks a couple for "soliciting assistance" in CPR.
"All the devices are used for third party individuals," said Kinney. "It shows how work is used for the benefit of those who need help."
Kinney and his crew are dedicated to public safety. Each year, the company rescues around 15-20 citizens, whether it is just a minor injury, or even the one for which Kinney is being recognized for this week. On Aug. 9, 2010, the company responded to a call of a 60-year-old woman who was hiking and was hit in the head by a loose rock and knocked unconscious.
"We took the woman onto the boat and brought her to Queenston for evaluation," said Kinney.
"It's just something we do because we're a community-based company and it's something we ought to do," he added.