NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — The force of the mighty Niagara River is often dangerous for those who enter it. That’s why New York State Park Police always train for daring water rescues.
NYS Park Police Officer Nathan Sibenik is one of 11 highly trained members of the force’s swift water rescue team.
“It can be a mixed bag,” said Sibenik. “It can be people on the rocks that fall in, it can be people in the middle of the river that need rescuing, we don’t know how they go there. But, we just know we gotta get them out.”
News 4’s cameras were rolling Monday afternoon as Sibenik waded through forty-mile-per-hour waters for a training exercise near Horseshoe Falls.
“There’s a tremendous amount of strain on those ropes,” said Sibenik. “As they go into the water it can be 80 to 100 pounds of force. Plus, the force of the water.”
Attached to a rope, Sibenik uses a green pike pole to keep his balance.
He tests the depth of the water and searches for underwater hazards to reach his rescue target.
“They would pull me in and we would just do a kind of underarm hug,” added Officer Sibenik. “Obviously, I would bring a PFT with me, put that on that person and then we would hook in and bring them right to shore.”
Another big part of Park’s Police job is keeping boaters safe and out of the federally restricted exclusion zone in the Niagara River, a few miles from the brink of the Falls.
“The old saying is you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to the level of your training,” said Major Clyde Doty, NYS Park Police.
Major Doty said boaters who ignore restricted signs near the falls are putting their lives at risk.
A shallow reef in the danger area can disable boats, leaving them to float toward the brink.
“It happens a lot more than you would think, yes,” Major Doty said.
So far this year Park Police have rescued seven people at the Falls, four of which the Swift Water Rescue team assisted with.
“It’s like nowhere else in the world and that’s why our men and women, they really just have to get out there and just train in the environment we do rescues in,” added Captain Chris Rola, NYS Park Police.