The Coast Guard airlifted the dead body of a woman from her car as it teetered near the edge of Niagara Falls on Wednesday.
Videos posted to Twitter documented the horrifying moment Wednesday afternoon, after the woman was stuck in the car about 50 yards from the brink of the Falls for about two hours as snow fell down on the area. It was located on the American side near Prospect Point, New York.
The woman was not moving when authorities arrived on the scene at around 1pm, officials said at a subsequent news conference.
A member of the Coast Guard was able to descend from a helicopter just south of the vehicle on a wire, break down the motorists passenger-side door with an ax and free her from the car, but soon discovered she was already dead.
Her death was later confirmed by the United States Coast Guard Great Lakes.
Park Police told WHAM that the victim was a local 66-year-old female. It remains unclear whether she drove into the icy water accidentally or intentionally.
As of 2pm, crews were working to retrieve the vehicle from the Falls, but said they ‘do not believe there is any evidentiary value to the car.’
Rescue crews arrived on the scene quickly to assess the situation after a car fell into Niagara River on Wednesday afternoon and quickly approached the Falls
The car was just 100 feet from tumbling over Niagara Falls on Wednesday afternoon when the driver was pulled from the car by a member of the Coast Guard
The US Coast Guard rescue driver removed the passenger from the car on the brink of the Falls and airlifted the body
The 66-year-old woman was already dead by the time the Coast Guard crew was able to get her from the car
A member of the Coast Guard prepared to descend into the river in an attempt to free the trapped motorist
State Park police said in a news conference following the incident that witnesses reported seeing the car enter the water at Goat Island moments before they received calls at around noon about a car floating down the river and getting stuck on some rocks.
They found the river water washing over the top of the windshield, with the current reaching to the bottom of vehicle’s side windows.
Captain Chris Rola said crews quickly determined that, based on where the car wound up, a swift water rescue team would not be able to attempt a rescue, noting: ‘We’ve never had a vehicle in the water this close to the brink.’
He added that while they were waiting for the Coast Guard helicopter to arrive, the park police used a drone to see how many people were in the vehicle and tried to get a license plate number. They discovered she was the only one in the car at the time, and believe she had been driving the vehicle when it fell into the water.
Then as the Coast Guard began their attempted rescue, the Niagara-Gazette reports, the New York Power Authority decreased water flow on the Falls in an effort to help the rescue efforts.
Rola would not release the name of the victim Wednesday afternoon, until her family was notified of her passing.
The incident remains under investigation by the New York State Park Police.
Officials used a drone to determine how many people were in the car, and attempt to get a license plate number
Dozens of police officers and firefighters remained on the scene Wednesday afternoon, including a Niagara County sheriff’s helicopter.
At one point, Syracuse.com reports, a state parks officer was seen putting on diving gear.