TORONTO – Canadian tightrope walker Jay Cochrane, who set two world records including one in 1972 for walking back and forth 2.5 miles above the Canadian National Exhibition, has died, according to his website.
Cochrane died Wednesday in Niagara Falls, Ontario, at age 69 of pancreatic cancer, according to a tribute to Cochrane dubbed “The Prince of the Air.”
Cochrane’s greatest achievement was in 1995 when he walked more than 700.16 yards over the Yangtze River in China from a height of 125.3 meters. The event, before a crowd of 200,000 people, made Cochrane a legend in China. His likeness appeared on a Chinese stamp and a school was named in his honor.
Cochrane was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1944 and grew up in the northern Ontario towns of North Bay and Sudbury. The tribute, written by friend Shane Peacock, says Cochrane became enamored by tightrope walking at the age of eight and ran away from home at 14 to begin his long career.
But that career began painfully, when in 1965, a tightrope 29.5 yards high at Varsity Stadium in Toronto collapsed and he suffered a broken pelvis, two broken legs and other fractures and was told he would never walk again.
Cochrane recovered by 1970, however, and ascended his first “skywire” 40 stories high between two skyscrapers to help mark the opening of the Hudson Bay Centre tower in Toronto.
Two years later, Cochrane set a world record when he walked back and forth for four kilometers on a 99.55-yard long wire 39.4 yards above ground at the Canadian National Exhibition, also in Toronto.
In 1981, Cochrane set a second world record by living on a high wire for 21 days in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In recent years, Cochrane performed several high-wire acts in Niagara Falls, including a 249.4-yard high walk on a tightrope in 2012 at the age of 68.