Wallenda Walk: Big Task At Hand

3:20 PM, May 24, 2012   |    comments
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NIAGARA FALLS, NY - The crew that put up Nik Wallenda's practice cable outside the Seneca Niagara Casino two weeks ago spent most of Wednesday dismantling it.

Now that same crew looks forward to rigging a similar cable -twice as long - across the Niagara Gorge a few days before Wallenda's scheduled crossing of the world famous Falls on June 15th.

"It was really a good practice for everyone involved," said Randy Fletcher of Rochester, NY based O'Connell Electric, while reflecting on the task just completed and the bigger one at hand.

"It was a practice for Nik to walk...and it was a practice for us to get our rigging right so that we could make sure that we had everything in place."

O'Connell was contracted for the job based on its long experience in stringing high tension utility lines, in some cases for several miles.

"We're used to dealing with a lot of tensions and pressures and things like that," Fletcher said.

That's Quite A Cable

At 1,800 feet in length, the cable Wallenda will use to cross Niagara Falls weighs nearly seven tons, according to Fletcher, so it's too heavy for a helicopter to lift across the gorge.

Instead, a helicopter will be used to first fly a lighter, high tension wire across the gorge. Once that wire is secured on both sides, Wallenda's cable will be attached to one end and pulled by machines across the gorge, never touching the water.

"It'll be a good eight or nine hours to get the wire across, and then another 20 hours of prep time to pull the cable across so you're talking 2-1/2 to 3 days to pull it," Fletcher said.

The entire rigging will be anchored by bolts sunk deep into the bedrock several hundred yards back from the brink of the Falls on Goat Island, and at another spot neat Table Rock on the Canadian side.

"Excuse me....there's a Mr. Wallenda on the line?"

Fletcher says O'Connell has been involved in the planning for the stunt for about 10 months, ever since they were contacted by Wallenda in a phone call which he admits initially came as quite a surprise.

"I wasn't there and didn't take the call, but I believe it went something like, 'This is Nik Wallenda and I would like you to pull a cable across the Niagara Gorge for me because I want to walk it', so it was like, is this real or is this just a joke? Well it turned out to be real...and now it's his (Wallenda's) dream come true."

Truth be told, the job is in a very real sense a dream come true for Fletcher and his riggers as well.

"It is exciting and it'll be rewarding when we finally get the cable across and then see him walk and go from one side to the other. It'll be a great thing."

A great thing which Fletcher, for one, has no plans to watch on Television.

"Oh, no. I'm going to have a front row seat. We're going to be in the restricted area so..that'll be good!" he said.

Click on the video player to watch our story from Two On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso.

Our coverage of Nik Wallenda's walk over Niagara Falls continues on the Walk in 2 History site.


WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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