NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario - A man who went over Niagara Falls with only the clothes on his back and survived will be charged with illegally performing a stunt, park police said Tuesday.
Kirk Jones, 40, of Canton, Mich., is the first person known to have gone over Niagara Falls without safety devices and lived. He could be fined $10,000.
Stunned tourists described seeing Jones float by on his back Monday in the swift Niagara River, go headfirst over the churning 180-foot waterfall and then pull himself out of the water onto the rocks below.
"He just looked calm. He just was gliding by so fast. I was in shock really that I saw a person go by," Brenda McMullen told WIVB-TV in Buffalo.
Jones was not seriously injured and was hospitalized in Niagara Falls in stable condition.
Brian Merrett, chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission, called the stunt "stupid."
"Our people went down in the gorge and got him," Merrett said. "That's why we don't condone this. It puts all of our people - the fire department, the paramedics, everyone - at risk to do the rescues. That's why we are so adamant about stunting."
Police said they were ruling out the possibility of a suicide attempt.
"We're investigating it as an intentional act," Niagara Parks Police Inspector Paul Fortier said. He said psychological tests were being conducted at the hospital.
Efforts to reach Jones by telephone at the hospital were unsuccessful. It was not immediately known if he had a lawyer.
Surviving a leap from Niagara Falls had intrigued Jones for years, said his mother, who had spoken to him briefly since the jump.
"He said he always thought there was a spot you could jump and survive," Doris Jones, 77, told The Associated Press. "We never agreed to it. We thought it was risky."
Eric Fronek, 21, said his friend had been talking about possibly going over the falls for weeks.
"No one believed he would actually do it," Fronek said Tuesday. "He said, `If I go over and I live, I am going to make some money.'"
Fortier said police believe they have a videotape of the act made by someone who accompanied Jones. That person has not been charged.
Water rushes over the falls at a rate of 150,000 gallons per second.
Only one other person is known to have survived a plunge over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls without a barrel or other contraption - a 7-year-old boy who was wearing a life preserver when he was thrown into the water in a 1960 boating accident.
No one has ever survived a trip - with or without safety devices - over the narrower and rockier American falls.
Since 1901, 15 daredevils have taken the plunge in barrels or other devices, including a kayak and a personal watercraft. Ten survived, said Niagara Falls historian Paul Gromosiak, who has written books on the subject.
Among them was Steven Trotter, who made the trip twice: in 1985 in a barrel wrapped in innertubes, and in 1995, when he made the plunge with his girlfriend in another makeshift barrel. He said Jones' leap "cheapens the legend."
"You plummet into sheer rock," Trotter said Tuesday. "I've done some pretty wild stunts in my time, but I value my life. This man obviously did not value his life."
Gromosiak theorized Jones owed his survival to a "water cone," caused by the buildup of air pressure, that cushioned his fall. "Otherwise he would have been killed," he said.
Suicides are not uncommon at Niagara Falls, although police are reluctant to give numbers.
Lynda Satelmajer, of Brampton, Ontario, said she and her family watched the man as he entered the river and then went over the falls.
"He seemed a bit edgy, kind of jumping around," she said. "He walked over to where we were standing and he jumped and slid down on his backside and went over the brink.
"It was really freaky, actually. He was smiling."