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Man rescued from frigid rapids above Niagara Falls

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — Rescuers on Thursday pulled a man from rushing, frigid water less than 100 yards from the brink of Niagara Falls.

No one could say how or when the unidentified man entered the Niagara River rapids. Witnesses on shore called 911 with reports of a man clinging to a log shortly before noon.

With tourists cheering on shore, he was pulled out at 2 p.m. and taken to a hospital.

“He had a life jacket on. He had jeans on and thermals on under that,” said New York State Park Police Major Clyde Doty, who was among tethered rescuers who waded into the 51-degree water on a day the area saw its first snowfall of the season.

Niagara Falls Fire Chief Joe Pedulla said the first rescuers to reach the man fitted him with a flotation collar, but the disoriented man seemed to fight it, slipped out and was carried closer to the falls, where Doty lunged and grabbed him.

“If he wasn’t there, I don’t know what would have happened,” Pedulla said.

Doty said he was making his way into the river to position himself for such a scenario when he heard the crowd of onlookers gasp.

“Once I heard that, we picked it up and moved much quicker, and then a second gasp,” he told reporters. “There was a difference in that noise. I looked up river and saw him coming.”

After intercepting him, Doty, with one foot in a crevice and the other behind a rock, braced himself and the man against the current for more than an hour until they could be brought to shore. The man appeared to be suffering from hypothermia and was unable to move or speak coherently, he said.

“I just kept telling him, ‘We’ve got help coming. I gotcha. We’re not going anywhere,'” Doty said.

The man’s condition was unknown.

Pedulla said rescuers were challenged by the depth and strength of the rapids near the brink. The New York Power Authority, which diverts water for the production of hydroelectricity, lowered the water levels to give rescuers better access, he said.