NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - A woman's life was saved Friday from the area of the Niagara Falls whirlpool. Authorities say the helicopter rescue involved a woman who was clinging to a rock.
Police say they are thankful someone saw the woman and called police around 4 p.m.
"The person didn't look like she was moving at all and then you could see her hands scrambling on the rocks," said Brian Gates, who noticed the woman and says he called for help.
The woman was alone and in desperate need of help, upstream from the whirlpool. Officers say they don't know why she was in the gorge or how she lost her balance and fell in the water.
The Erie County Sheriff's Department Air One helicopter assisted in rescuing the woman by air. Also, the Niagara Falls Fire Department, U.S. Border Patrol and Niagara Falls State Park police responded.
"It's nerve wrecking at first, because you're sending your guys over a 200 foot drop," said chief Clifford Mayes of Niagara Falls Fire. Mayes says he knew he had limited time to send his firefighters to help save her. "She was close, she was hypothermic, she was close to giving up, if she did she would've been swept away."
Within about 15 minutes of the call to emergency, crews were able to locate to woman, who is about 45-years-old. She was strapped onto a stretcher and carried to a secure location.
Air One, the Erie County Arial Unit returned her back to safety.
Police say the rescue can be a lesson for anyone who visits Niagara Gorge or the falls.
"The gorge is open to traffic. We encourage people to use the gorge, but she just needs to stay away from the water," said Major David Page, of the Niagara Falls State Parks police.
Police say they rescue about 12 people each year at the gorge. Responders say the woman is lucky to have only suffered minor injuries and to be in stable condition.
Niagara Falls Fire say that the woman is now recovering in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. They say if the call for emergency came later than it actually did, she may not have made it.