Man survives Niagara Falls plunge to die tripping on an orange peel


Published February 21, 2023 at 2:00 pm

Bobby Leach survived going over Niagara Falls in this barrel but ended up dying after slipping on an orange peel. (Photo: Niagara Falls Public Library)

The second person – and first man – to successfully survive a plunge over Niagara Falls would ironically later die from a far milder every day kind of tumble.

Bobby Leach, who successfully went over the falls in a barrel, ended up dying 15 years later after tripping on an orange peel.

It is, of course, well-documented that Annie Taylor was the first ever to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901. Unfortunately, her success lead to Leach’s demise.

Something of a misogynist, Taylor’s success got under his skin, so much so that Leach would brag to anyone within ear-shot that anything a woman could do, he could do better – even something as boneheaded as risking his life.

So on July 25, 1911, Leach, previously a performer with Barnum and Bailey Circus, did indeed go over the falls but it didn’t come without physical cost.

Whereas Taylor emerged from her barrel relatively unscathed, suffering only a scrape on her head, Leach was a mess after his plunge, breaking both knee caps and fracturing his jaw.

However, while Taylor was hoping her stunt would come with material gains, that never happened and in 1921, she died, poor and destitute. She got the fame but never the fortune.

Leach, however, proved to be a slick salesman, making a handy living on publicity tours over his exploits. That would come at a cost, however.

In 1926, while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, he was strolling on a countryside street when he slipped on an orange peel and heard a loud pop. He broke his leg so severely it had to be amputated.

After the amputation, gangrene set in and he died of complications just two months later. That said, he did leave a legacy – the only man to survive Niagara Falls but succumb to an orange peel.

The front page of the Boston Globe following Bobby Leach’s death.

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