Rocket daredevil who planned South Dundas stunt is killed in California crash

Ogden Island, N.Y., as seen from the south shore of the St. Lawrence, with the water tower of Morrisburg, Ont., on the north side of the river, visible in the distance. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

MORRISBURG — ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes, the American stuntman who once pitched South Dundas on the idea of hosting a rocket launch into neighbouring U.S. airspace — with him aboard — was killed in a similar daredevil stunt yesterday.

Hughes died when his homemade rocket crashed in the California desert Feb. 22, according to TMZ and other media outlets. He was 64 years old.


In 2014, the daredevil proposed marking the upcoming 40th anniversary of another stuntman’s notorious — and unsuccessful — attempt to jump over part of the St. Lawrence River and onto an American island, west of Morrisburg, in 1979. On that occasion, Kenny Powers was behind the wheel of a rocket-powered Lincoln that flew off a specially constructed gigantic ramp on the Canadian shore, sending the vehicle airborne over Lakeshore Drive before splashing down in the river, comically short of his intended target on the other side of the international border. Powers, who sustained multiple injuries in the stunt, had assumed the place of another stuntman, Ken Carter, who originally planned the jump years earlier. (The story is recounted in a National Film Board documentary, below).

Enter Hughes, who wanted to stage his own version of the spectacle in homage to the earlier event — but in his case riding the steam-powered rocket for which he was known. By correspondence, he approached both the South Dundas Chamber of Commerce and the municipal council, suggesting a spring 2015 launch. While the Chamber supported the idea, the endeavour was grounded when the local politicians balked at some of Hughes’s requests, including liability coverage.

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