Jay Cochrane dies at 69; tightrope walker set world records

Jay Cochrane dies at 69; tightrope walker set world records
Jay Cochrane crosses the water on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in 2002 -- at a height of 40 stories. (Mark D. Phillips / AFP)

Jay Cochrane, a Canadian tightrope walker who set world records as he crossed high above gorges and traversed from skyscraper to skyscraper the world over, died Wednesday in Niagara Falls, Ontario, according to a remembrance posted on his website.

He was 69 and had pancreatic cancer, according to an Internet tribute called "The Prince of the Air."


In the tribute, aerialist Nik Wallenda called Cochrane "a man of amazing visions."

"It was a dream of mine that I expressed to my wife only yesterday that we might work together on my next walk," he said.

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, on May 1, 1944, Cochrane told interviewers he walked his first tightrope at age 8 and ran away from his small-town Ontario home with a circus at age 14.

In 1965, he fell from a tightrope nine stories above a Toronto stadium, breaking his pelvis and both legs. After an arduous recovery, he walked between two 40-story Toronto towers in 1970.

Over the years, he logged numerous claims to aerial fame.

In 1981, he lived for 21 days on a high wire above San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to his website.

In 1998, he walked for 53 minutes above the swirling waters of the Yangtze River more than 1,300 feet below, crossing 2,098 feet between cliffs on either side of the Qutang Gorge.

In 1998, he traversed the towers of the Flamingo Hilton, balancing 30 stories above Las Vegas and walking 800 feet blindfolded.

Knott's Berry Farm was among the many amusement parks he performed at, ascending to the top of the Sky Tower parachute ride on "a 400-foot ligament no thicker than an index finger," according to a 1991 Los Angeles Times account.

While he made a point of his safety preparations, he scoffed at nets.

"Nets are for two things," he told The Times. "They catch fish, and I have a 96-year-old grandmother and they keep her hair in place."

Survivors include two brothers and two sisters.