Nik Wallenda's Niagara Walk Approved

Wallenda says his own rescue team and diver will be present, he has a $20 million insurance policy, and costs will be covered by sponsors including Discovery Channel and Red Bull.

The Niagara Parks Commission's board unexpectedly approved Nik Wallenda's plan to make a tightrope walk later this year across the Niagara Gorge. The commission had rebuffed Wallenda's request up to now but said Feb. 15 that it granted approval as a special case. He is a seventh-generation performer from the famed Wallenda high wire family.

"This decision was approved in part in recognition of the role that stunting has played in the history and promotion of Niagara Falls. We have made it clear that this is a very unique one-time situation. It's not an everyday activity and will not be allowed to become an everyday activity," Commission Chair Janice Thomson said.

The commission's announcement said the motion approved by the NPC board states that consideration could be given to a professional performer's stunting proposal like this one "only once every 20 years."

The board approved in principle, depending on an agreement being successfully negotiated with the commission and Wallenda that includes obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals. The announcement said this agreement is expected to be reached by March 31, and the walk is expected to take place this summer.

Nik Wallenda's website (www.nikwallenda.com) states that he intends to have a rescue helicopter standing by during the walk; if he encounters difficulty, he will sit down on the wire and the copter will hover nearby and lift him to safety. He writes that he will practice the walk on a 670-meter cable stretched between two cranes at a height of 4 meters above the ground, with airboats placed around it to simulate swirling wind conditions. The cable will be 2 inches thick, rather than the 5/8 inches he normally uses.

He also writes that his own rescue team and diver will be present, he has a $20 million insurance policy, and the costs of "rigging, directing traffic, and marshalling spectators" will be covered by sponsors including Discovery Channel and Red Bull. Sixteen rope walkers have previously tried to walk across the gorge and only one of them died –- an American who fell to his death in 1887, according to Wallenda's account.

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