Every winter in Niagara Falls, if it gets cold enough, ice and snow form over the portion of the Niagara River that sits at the bottom of the Falls, creating what is referred to as the 'Ice Bridge'.
Until the year 1912, tourists and locals alike would flock to the Ice Brige, wandering across the frozen river and marvelling at the natural wonder of Niagara Falls at eye level. Small temporary shacks would pop up all across the ice, where hawkers sold everything from Niagara souvenirs to bootleg whisky! It was considered both a winter family tradition and natural phenomenon to walk on the Ice Bridge, and never occurred to anyone that it could be dangerous.
This all changed on February 4, 1912 when three people lost their lives. Eldridge and Clara Stanton of Toronto enjoying themselves on the Ice Bridge when suddenly the wind changed direction. As 17-year old Burell Hecock of Cleveland tried to save them the ice broke off, stranding them and carrying them to the lower Whirlpool Rapids. Despite valiant efforts to rescue the three, they were soon swept to their deaths in the Niagara River.
Today, a plaque is found near the foot of Clifton Hill honours Hancock’s heroic efforts.
While in most winters the Ice Bridge makes a magnificent return, it is strictly forbidden (and I might add very dangerous) to venture out onto it and has been since that February day more than 100 years ago.
Attached is a photograph of Burell Hecock stranded on an ice flow minutes before it broke up, throwing him into the Niagara River.