The 7-year-old who survived going over Niagara Falls


Published March 31, 2023 at 2:17 pm

Roger Woodward looks up as he's being rescued by The Maid of the Mist.

It’s enough to make anyone believe in miracles.

Back on July 9, 1960, a seven-year-old boy named Roger Woodward was swept over Horseshoe Falls, wearing only a lifejacket and somehow survived.

According to Info Niagara, his story began on the American side of the falls when he and his 17-year-old sister, Deanne, got into a 12-foot aluminum fishing boat equipped with a 7.5 horsepower motor being steered by a guide further up the Niagara River.

Before long, the boat developed motor trouble, hit a shoal, capsized into the river and all three were thrown into the upper rapids. The guide went over the Falls and was instantly killed.

The story of Deanne is equally frightful. Two men, both visiting from New Jersey but unknown to each other, were able to fish her out of the water, though barely. She was able to grab the thumb of one man, who then screamed for help, worried she’d lose her grip in the strength of the rapids. The second man came quickly and between the two of them, they were able to pull her out just six metres (20 feet) from the edge.

However, there was no rescue for Roger, who plummeted over the Horseshoe Falls.

Astoundingly, one of the scenic Maid of the Mist boats was just making its turn below the Falls when one of the crew spotted the bright orange life jacket.

Roger Woodward, left, being pulled up onto The Maid of the Mist and right, being released from the

The veteran Captain Clifford Keech maneuvered his boat so the crew could pick up the boy on the starboard side. After two unsuccessful throws, a life preserver landed within reach of the crying youngster.

Lifted safely onboard the vessel, Roger mumbled his concern about his sister. Within the hour, word spread of this Niagara miracle. Roger was whisked to the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls, where he remained for three days with a slight concussion.

In 1994, Deanne Woodward Simpson and Roger Woodward returned to Canada from
Niagara Falls, New York, to tell a Canadian TV show about that fateful day.

Woodward returned to Niagara Falls in 1990 – 30 years later – to tell his take to the congregation at Glengate Alliance Church.

According to Info Niagara, he told the group, “For me, there was initially pure panic. I was scared to death. I can remember going through the rapids and being thrown against the rocks and being bounced around like a toy in the water and being beaten up pretty badly.

“My panic very quickly shifted to anger and the anger was from seeing people running frantically up and down the shoreline and wondering why they wouldn’t come out and rescue me.”

Then came the Zen moment of peace when he believed his fate was sealed. “There was a time I thought I was going to die and my seven years of life literally passed before me and I started thinking what my parents would do with my dog and my toys and had really given up at that point and felt I was going to die that afternoon.”

In 1994, Woodward and his sister travelled to Niagara Falls to retell their story on a half-hour Canadian television special.

Joining the pair were the two New Jersey men – John R. Hayes and John Quattrochi – now both in their 80s, who rescued Deanne just meters from the Falls. For Deanne, it was an extremely emotional meeting. She had not seen either gentleman for over 30 years, nor had she since stood at the edge of the Falls that had almost claimed both her life and that of her brother.

To this day, Woodward, a seven-year-old who was neither a daredevil nor a stuntman, was the first person to survive a plunge over the Horseshoe Falls not in a barrel.

Roger Woodward, with his own sons, poses a suitable and safe distance from
Niagara Falls in 1994.


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