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Cliff Plunges (Part Two)

FIVE: Girl survives three-day ordeal stranded on the rocky Oregon coast

Becky Roever, a 12-year-old girl from Bellaire, Texas, was lucky to be alive after being lost for three days on a rocky stretch of the Oregon coast.

The girl had vanished while walking ahead of her parents on a trail at the Ecola State Park near Canon Beach on Friday, July 7, 1961.  The Oregon State police were called in to help find her.  Officers and a large search party searched the area for three days but came up empty. Authorities speculated that Miss Roever fell into the sea from an area prone to slides and was swept out to sea. However, the girl’s father, William Roever, said he did not believe that she had had fallen into the ocean and he offered a $250 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.

Miraculously, on Monday, July 10th, 1961, Becky Roever was spotted by a fisherman, Unio Rautio of Seaside.  “She saw me before I saw her,” Rautio said.  “She called for help.” A helicopter braved heavy fog and flew close to the cliffs to land on the narrow beach where Becky was found to bring her to safety.

Becky recuperated at a hospital where doctors reported that she was in good condition.  She survived without food and with only a trickle of water from a spring.  Her mother explained that Becky had indeed fallen down a high bluff onto the remote beach.   

SIX: Polish Princess Falls to her death from High Cliff above Moosehead Lake in Maine

Princess Helen Radziwill, the American widow of Prince Ladislas Radziwill of Poland, was killed when she fell from a cliff on the north slope of Mount Kineo next to Moosehead Lake in northern Maine on September 13, 1924.

The Princess, formerly Miss Helen Simpson, was 26 years old.  She had been spending the summer in the area with her family – her parents, two brothers, and a sister.  

The tragic accident occurred after she had gone hiking, accompanied by her brother, Stanley B. Simpson, in search of a valuable diamond ring which she had lost the day before.  The siblings had reached a point on the mountain just above a steep sheer 700-foot cliff which overlooks Moosehead Lake.  Princess Radziwill ventured too close to the cliff’s edge and stumbled over a loose stone. She then lost her footing in the crumbling earth and pitched headfirst into the abyss. 

Her brother was unable to stop her and ran two miles back to the Mt. Kineo Hotel for help.  When he returned with a rescue party to the base of the cliff, they discovered his sister’s body hanging limp among the branches of some stunted fir trees about 200 feet from the top.  Climbers lowered themselves, with difficulty, over the mountain face and fastened ropes about her body, which was then lowered some 500 feet to the lakeshore and brought back to the village by boat.

Princess Helen Radziwill was an unlikely and unlucky Princess.  Born and raised in Chicago and the daughter of a doctor, she met Prince Radziwill while she was a student at Vassar college.  Their wedding was to have taken place in Chicago.  However, after the prince came down with a serious case of pneumonia, Helen rushed to London to be with him.  As he lay dying, they were married.  The Prince died just a few hours after the ceremony which took place in January, 1923.  

SEVEN: Purdue University President’s Wife makes heroic effort to save him in Rockies and gets stranded on a ledge

Dr. W.E. Stone, President of Purdue University, and his wife, lured by their love of mountaineering and their ambition to become the first man and woman to ascend to the top of Mt. Eanon, an almost inaccessible peak of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, travelled there in the summer of 1921.  Alas, their quest ended in tragedy for him and a lucky escape for her.

On the afternoon of July 16th, as they were negotiating a difficult section of the trail near the summit, Dr. Stone suffered a terrible fall down the steep side of the mountain into a crevasse.  Mrs. Stone felt compelled to try to rescue him even though she did not hold out much hope that he had survived the fall. She fastened a rope to the edge of a ledge and climbed down until she reached the end of the rope.  There was no foothold or handhold and she found herself dangling against the steep mountainside. For some time she hung there and tried in vain to draw herself back up again. Finally, exhausted, she let go of the rope expecting to fall to her death. Instead she landed on a narrow ledge, the only break in a sheer cliff that was hundreds of feet tall, about ten feet below.

There she remained for eight days – through windstorms and rainstorms and thunder and lightning – without food and with only a small amount of water which trickled down the cliff to drink.  Finally, a search party heard her cries and were able to rescue her.  Mrs. Stone was carried back to camp on a rough stretcher over miles on narrow trails.

Mrs. Stone was resting comfortably in camp and was expected to show no permanent ill effects from her trying experience.  After regaining enough strength, she was expected to resume her journey home which included a 35-mile horseback ride to Banff.

EIGHT: Woman in a motor car plunges over cliff at Niagra Falls

An automobile with a woman inside plunged over the cliff near the Cataract at Niagra falls and was smashed to pieces in the afternoon of September 3, 1922.  Mrs. Agatha Miller, a 54 years old tourist from Cleveland, fell to her death with the car. 

The accident happened just north of the steel arch bridge on the American side of the falls.  The car, which was owned by Edward Meyers of Buffalo, was parked was in a grassy area near the Customs office where there is no guard rail, facing the river on a slight slope.  Mrs. Miller was alone in the car in the back seat.  Mr. Meyers stated that he thought he had the car safely parked.

For some unknown reason, the automobile began to slip down the slope. Mrs. Miller realized her danger and began to scream.  Mrs. Miller, who was heavyset, tried to extricate herself but she was not quick enough. Two bystanders grabbed the rear fenders in a desperate attempt to stop the car.  They kept hanging on until the car reached the brink and plunged into the gorge.

The Millers and another couple from Cleveland had come to Buffalo that morning and hired Meyers to drive them on a sight-seeing tour of the Falls.  As they were about to cross the bridge into Canada, Mr. Meyers was stopped by Canadian officials because he did not have his driver’s license with him. Mr. Meyers parked the car and went into the Customs office to deal with this matter.  His passengers, except for Mrs. Miller, exited the vehicle and accompanied him.  The accident followed.  

NINE:  Man’s Seventh Wife falls off cliff to her death at Mt. Ranier National Park during their honeymoon

The former Miss Sadie Kessler of Shelton, Nebraska, was killed in a tragic fall over a precipice in Rainier National Park while on her honeymoon with her husband, John A. Jordan, on August 10, 1924.

Mr. Jordan claimed her fall was accidental and that he was further up the mountain when his wife fell. However, Park Rangers and local authorities were skeptical of his story.  Their investigation into Sadie’s mysterious death led to some startling revelations and Mr. Jordan’s arrest.

It turned out that Miss Kessler was Mr. Jordan’s sixth or seventh wife.  Three of his other wives had also died in mysterious circumstances and he had not divorced the others.

At his well-publicized trial for bigamy and murder, Miss Margaret Kessler, the deceased victim’s sister, testified that she had accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Jordan on part of their honeymoon and the couple was constantly arguing and getting into altercations because of Mr. Jordan’s treatment of his wife.  Another witness was Mrs. Grace Clark Jordan, wife No. 5.  She testified that she and Jordan were married in 1917 and that about a year later, he left her presumably to join the Army but that they were never divorced.

Mr. Jordan was convicted and sentenced to a prison term at Folsom State prison.  

TEN:  American Navy veteran weds British girl who fell at his feet from a cliff during WWII

American actor Sam Byrd, age 44, from Charleston, S.C., who achieved distinction in the plays “Tobacco Road” and “Of Mice and Men,” revealed to reporters in December, 1952, that he had wed English teen Patricia Ann Bolam a year and a half earlier – in May, 1951, at Carlisle, Cumberland, England.

The two had met under very unusual circumstance during World War II.  Mr. Byrd was a lieutenant in the United States Navy.  His military group was practicing invasion tactics on a beach near Plymouth England in 1944.  Pat, then 10 years old, was watching the activity from a low cliff.  A noise startled her and she fell, landing at Byrd’s feet.  He stopped the practice and stepped over to assist young Pat who suffered a sprained wrist.  Byrd then met the girl’s family and became her unofficial guardian.  Pat’s mother had a premonition of her own death and had asked Byrd to take care of her two children – Pat and brother Tony – if anything happened to her.  Byrd was deployed to the Pacific Theater and learned that Pat’s mother had died on VE Day.  He kept his promise and returned to England. He eventually took Pat to the U.S. to finish her education.  He reported that he kept their marriage a secret in the U.S. to allow Pat to complete her schooling and get a foothold in the theatrical business.