On October 1, 1995, in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000 tourists, Robert Overacker – a thrill-seeking stunt man with a passion for social justice – launched over the side of Niagara Falls on his jet ski. His purpose? To raise awareness about the plight of the homeless. However, this altruistic feat hardly went as planned. When Robert Overcracker jumped Niagra Falls he didn't live to tell the tale.
Within moments of clearing the edge of the falls, Overacker's parachute failed to deploy properly, sending him plummeting downward into the mist – and the entire ordeal was caught on film by his brother. Immediately afterward, crowds searched the surface of the water for any trace of the California daredevil, and some tourists even reported seeing him waving his arms at the bottom of the falls as if he were trying to swim. Sadly, once paramedics recovered his body, he was confirmed dead – however, his cause of death wasn't what everyone had expected.
A Stunning Photograph Captured Robert Overacker's Niagara Falls Fall
Robert Overacker wasn't your average stunt man – he was a professional. As a graduate of a California stunt school, he was well aware of the extensive planning that needed to go into such a performance, and he spent the better part of seven years planning out every last detail of the jump. According to his plan, he was to ride his jet ski over the edge of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls at which point he would activate his "rocket-propelled parachute," which would pull him up and away from the falling jet ski and provide him with a safe, controlled descent down the falls.
After attempting the jump on two previous occasions – and being convinced not to at the last minute by his family – he finally determined that Sunday, October 1, 1995, was the day to do it. So, he strapped on his parachute, grabbed a life preserver, added a "Save The Homeless" sign to the front of his jet ski, and took to the water. What happened next was the absolute worst-case scenario.
His Brother Watched The Whole Thing – And Got It On Tape
In hopes of documenting the stunt and gaining the publicity that they wanted for their cause, Overacker's brother, Michael Zureich, and close friend, Christopher Yeomans, were there to bear witness to the jump and catch it on film. Neither of them realized ahead of time that this would be the last time they would see Overacker alive. As the video they took shows, Overacker can be seen triumphantly taking to the edge of the falls; however, his parachute is never deployed.
He Didn't Die From The Fall
As soon as Overacker crested the edge of the falls, it became obvious that something had gone wrong. His parachute – the rocket-propelled one that was supposed to pull him away from the weight of the falling jet ski – never deployed. As soon as he went over the edge, he and his jet ski disappeared into the rushing water of the falls. Immediately, his audience tried to locate him in the mists at the bottom, and some even say that they saw him trying to swim away from the turbulent falls; however, as Info Niagara pointed out, "the rapids have a strange way of flailing... corpses' arms around, often giving the appearance of a person swimming."
The coroner's report later determined that these tourists may not have been crazy after all – Overacker may have actually survived the fall. According to his autopsy, which was performed the next day, his body had no bruises or broken bones to indicate that the 180-foot fall had killed him. In fact, his official cause of death was determined to be from drowning.
Since 1901, it has been reported that at least 14 people have survived a tumble over the falls, while only 4 had actually been killed – Overacker's death took it up to 5.