Jun 7, 2023 | History

Robert Overacker’s Fatal Niagara Falls Stunt

Morgan Collier

Morgan Collier

In 1995, Robert Overacker, a 39-year-old resident of Camarillo, California, had a noble goal in mind. He wanted to raise awareness and help fight for the lives of homeless people in the United States.

He devised a daring plan to achieve this by attempting a courageous stunt that would see him fly off the edge of Niagra Falls in a very unconventional way.

The Plan

Robert Overacker was a graduate of a California stunt school, so he was well-versed in his craft, and he expected that the stunt would be executed flawlessly. But his friends didn’t share his confidence. In fact, Overacker had travelled to the Falls twice before to attempt the stunt, but on both occasions, his friends had talked him out of it.


But after seven years of planning and two failed trips, Overacker finally made the decision to go through with his crazy stunt on October 1st, 1995. 

Overacker planned to equip himself with a life preserver, a sign that bore the message “Save The Homeless”, and a parachute.

His intent was to let go of the motorized ski as it went over the edge, deploy the chute and float down to the water. But unfortunately, things wouldn’t go so smoothly.


The Day Of The Stunt

On October 1st, 1995, Robert Overacker made his way to the popular tourist spot of Horseshoe Falls (the largest of the three waterfalls that collectively form Niagra Falls), which was filled with approximately 2,000 to 3,000 tourists on that day. 

He rode his motorized jet ski into the water and began powering towards the edge of the waterfall. Then, at around 12:35 pm, Overacker took the plunge over the edge of the mighty Horseshoe Falls.


At the brink of the waterfall, Overacker tried to activate the rocket-propelled parachute that was strapped to his back. The plan was to detach himself from the jetski and glide down safely, but unfortunately, the mechanism failed to discharge, leaving him with no means of escape.

As Overacker plunged 180 feet towards the water, his brother and a friend watched in horror. The impact of the fall was compared to hitting cement by Niagara Falls Park Police dispatcher Tom Detenbeck.

Laurie Overacker, Robert’s wife, was informed of the tragedy shortly after the incident.


The Aftermath

After the tragic incident, Lawrence McGinn, the assistant general manager for Maid of the Mist, expressed his opinion on the matter, saying: “I hate to see these stunters try things. I think the Falls is going to win most of the time.″

The annual death toll of people going over Niagara Falls averages between 20 and 30. Most of these fatalities are attributed to suicides, and the majority occur at the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The mortality rate for daredevils attempting stunts over the falls is approximately 25%.