BUFFALO, NY -- Two men, a 29 year old and 46 year old, drowned in the Niagara River Monday.
The call came in to Buffalo Police around 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon for two people in the water at the Foot of Ferry.
Witnesses tell 2 On Your Side an older man was trying to get driftwood for a furniture project when he went into the water, and another man went in to help him.
Witness Christina Williams, who was at Broderick Park for a family outing, told 2 On Your Side she was shocked to see one of them men climb over the fence and enter the water to reach for the driftwood. But the man started struggling and his friend tried to save him.
"He dove in to save him. But at this point, he was hardly with his head above the water. Once he reached him, he pushed him straight under the water and it was a back and forth bobbing. Another man who was a bystander went on the other side of the fence to reach a real long piece of driftwood to try and reach him...We were about a foot away from him. I was holding on to this man so he didn't fall. Holding onto his arm and leg. Just a foot away...he was this far from grabbing it...kept reaching and kept reaching and about on the fourth bobbing up and down - they both sunk straight down. I could see them for three or four feet, then they disappeared into the water."
Buffalo Police say both men died. They have been identified as: Mario Guthrie, 29, and Scott Vater, 46, both of Buffalo.
2 On Your Side was on the scene, and our Facebook LIVE video includes our live coverage as well as a press conference with Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo.
Rinaldo told reporters this sad incident should serve as a warning. And it brings back a very difficult memory for the Buffalo police dive unit with the loss of one of their own last October in that same area of the river.
"You cannot swim in this. You cannot enter it for a moment. The currents, the rip - current are beyond deadly. As we've seen unfortunately with the tragedy last year with the loss of our diver, Lt. Craig Lehner."
Captain Rinaldo suggests that people call 911 if they see someone struggling in the water. He says they could be pulled under and drown as well if they try to jump in to reach the struggling swimmer.
Rinaldo says there are warning signs but no life preservers at that location. Police do carry life preservers with slings and rope that can be tossed into the river but there was no chance to use it in this case.