An Ontario couple believe they may have caught on camera the last moments of a young womam who was swept over Niagara Falls after climbing up on a railing to be photographed beside the natural wonder.
Classmates of the woman, who was studying English at a Toronto language school, identified her as Ayano Tokumasu, a “bubbly, fun-loving” 20-year-old international student from Japan. She had been at the Hansa Language Centre on Eglinton Ave. East for about two weeks, Citytv reports.
Tokumasu’s last moments may have been captured by Andrea Smith and Jason Watson, a vacationing couple from Windsor, Ont., who shared photos with the Windsor Star that they believe show the student.
In the picture, taken in front of the railing, a person in a red sweater is clearly seen in the background standing on top of the rock barrier. It’s not clear from the picture whether she was standing in front of the railing.
According to eyewitnesses, Tokumasu had climbed over the railing and straddled it to look at the falls. When she stood up, the student apparently lost her footing and fell into the river 24 metres upstream from the brink of the falls. The swift current swept her over.
“It actually gave me a chill,” Smith told the newspaper about seeing the picture. “We could have done something to save her and we didn’t.”
Tokumasu’s Toronto language school was a sombre place this week as fellow students learned of the young woman’s plunge over Niagara Falls, the Toronto Star reports:
Classmate Jun Seok Kim, 15, who met the young woman about three weeks ago, said students were putting together a book of messages. “We are praying for you, Ayano,” said one. Another: “We will remember you forever.”
Tokumasu’s Facebook page shows photos of smiling, bright-eyed woman on numerous adventures, from riding a camel to climbing trees in Toronto.
Her presumed death sparked warnings to tourists at the falls not to climb the railing.
"We get about 11 million people a year here who view that annually — this is the first occurrence of this nature that I can recall," Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug Kane told the Canadian Press earlier this week.
Police said the incident was captured on surveillance video and foul play is not suspected.
Tokumasu was visiting the falls with a friend around 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday, police said. Niagara Parks Police and emergency workers combed the area with helicopters and boats, but couldn't find the woman.
With files from The Canadian Press