NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - The issue of whether or not to use a tether when he crosses Niagara Falls in June is weighing heavily on Nik Wallenda's high-wire act.
At this point, it's a question that is yet to be answered. Wallenda says he'll walk without a tether for now, arguing using a tether would take away from the thrill and his family's history.
For six days so far, Wallenda has practiced walking 1,200 feet without a safety net or safety harness across the parking lot of the Seneca Niagara Casino.
Wallenda said, "My dream is to walk without any tether whatsoever. Again, I think it's more about family history and I've never in my career worn a safety line."
Now, there's a growing controversy over that exact feat. Wallenda being tethered to the 1,800 foot rope when he crosses Niagara Falls has become a major sticking point for his sponsors. He won't say who they are, but Wallenda says, it's also become a major sticking point for the network that he signed with to broadcast this walk live.
Wallenda says contracts were signed between he and his sponsors. And now, he says, some are suddenly coming back to the table for liability reasons. Wallenda argues he doesn't need to be tethered to the cable.
"I think it inhibits me in some ways to be able to have that freedom up there. I'm not used to wearing one, so it's something else I have to be accustomed to make this walk," he argued.
His best friend Bello Nock, also a wire walker, supports Wallenda's decision.
"Nothing changes except the coverage. He's still going be the same, we call it daredevil," Nock noted.
For now, Wallenda will continue to walk the practice wire without a harness.
He stated, "I didn't change two laws in two countries over 100-years-old to not fulfill my dream. So I'll be doing it, if I'm forced to do it then I will. At this point, it's not you will or your won't, but it's coming to that point."
He is waiting to make an 11th hour decision. That network could pull their live broadcast and the funding needed to pull off this stunt.
Rescuers are preparing, in the meantime, for a rope rescue. Thursday, two firefighters were zip-lining across the wire, above the Seneca Niagara Casino parking lot, where Nik Wallenda would normally walk.
Brandon Fife is a firefighter from Niagara Falls, Ontario. He says he's ready for the real deal. News 4 asked what he think it'll be like if the zip line team is called upon.
"You know stay calm, and obviously rely on the training and work through it at a safe pace and I'm sure everyone will come out okay," Fife said.
Rescue crews will wear a full body harness that will be hooked on to the wire. Those on the rescue team will use their foot to control the speed of the so-called 'trolley.'
The trolley is 15 pounds. It costs more than $3,500 and will be used in a worst case scenario.
State Parks Police Lt. Patrick Moriarty told News 4, rescuers zip-lining out to rescue Wallenda is a back-up.
Moriarty said the Wallenda team will use a gravity-controlled cable car to rescue the wire-walker, first. If that fails, the zip liners will be called into action.
They will practice over the coming days.
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