Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Niagara Falls: A Japanese Female Student Accidentally Plunges to Her Death

Ayano Tokumasu, a cheerful 19-year-old Japanese international student in Toronto, on a visit to the Niagara Falls on August 14 evening, climbed on the security railing adjacent to a stone post for a better view of the Falls as well as being photographed by her companion. While climbing down from the railing, she lost her footing and plunged 80 feet down into the river with fast-moving currents. The police and firefighters, until writing of this report today, could not locate her body yet. She is presumed to be dead.

This is the seventh accidental death in the last 100 years that the Niagara Falls became a popular tourist spot. There were few foolhardy daredevils who willingly jumped into the Falls and most of them survived death. It is noteworthy that about 20 to 25 persons every year, climbing over the rails, jump into the Falls and commit suicide.

Ayano Tokumasu is presumed to be dead after she fell over the
Niagara Falls security railing into the raging river below

Photo courtesy: Facebook

The Canadian side of the Niagara Falls

Photo (June, 1998) © Jerome D'Costa

On the right, the U.S. side of the Niagara Falls

Photo (June, 1998) © Jerome D'Costa

The Niagara Falls Security Barrier System: 
An Invitation to Disaster

I visited the Niagara Falls several times. Every time I went near the security railing or fence, I had a concern about the security of the sightseers. I would see parents letting their small children sit on the steel railing, some people could be seen leaning over the railing for a better view of the Falls and so and so forth. The whole security barrier system itself is an invitation to disaster. The Niagara Falls authority played a role of “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.”

When the security barrier was erected decades ago, Canada was an innocent place – people were more simple and blindly obedient to warning signboards like the ones still hanging on to the security barrier. Presently, the milieu is completely changed. With an increasing number of visitors, both Canadian and international, the Niagara Falls area in Summer is a crowded place. Moreover, immigrants from different countries react differently to warning signs and rules. Some immigrants, when in their own countries, did not bother about rules and regulations that much as their government oversight was lax or nil. In addition, the reality TV programmes of daredevil and foolhardy acts have some influence on people, too. Now going out of the way is a new fashion and thought to be an achievement.

Under the circumstances, the Niagara Falls authority must take active decision on making the security barrier system more effective and up-to-date. They should also heed to the Murphy’s Law. It was common sense that anything untoward might happen any time with the existing security barrier in the Falls area.

We suggest some improvements in the security barrier systems in the Falls area:
  • A secondary barrier (heavy steel netting) be built below the present barrier so that any person jumping or falling down may be secured there.
  • All stone posts should be of pyramid or conical shape so that people cannot sit or stand on them.
  • Patrol of the Falls area be increased.
  • From time-to-time, automatic announcements be made to the visitors to the Falls over the loudspeakers about security rules and regulations.

The present state of the security barrier system
in the Niagara Falls -- does it look safe to you at all?

Photo courtesy:

One of the warning signs on the security barrier
-- is this type of warning enough?

Photo courtesy:

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