Winnipeg police chief witnesses early-morning Red River rescue

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth, seen in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

A 37-year-old woman was taken to hospital after a harrowing experience in the Red River early Thursday morning, police said.

Around 1 a.m., a woman was heard screaming for help in the water, and one of the first on the scene was Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth, who had nothing but praise for the bravery of his officers after witnessing the incident which took place near his home.

“I live in the Mynarski neighbourhood, up to the north, along the Red River,” Smyth said.

“I was awakened by my neighbour banging on my front door and he informed me there was a woman in the river.”

A 911 call later, and a large group of police and other emergency officials gathered on the riverbank to attempt a rescue.

“It was very dark last night. The water is still very cold, and based on the sound — and that’s all we could go by at that time — the woman seemed about 40 feet offshore,” said Smyth.

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“She was clearly hysterical and in crisis. Fire was attempting to get a watercraft into the water, but they were still a ways out.”

By that point, he said, the woman appeared to have drifted near Kildonan Park, and with the help of a rope provided by a neighbour, a number of officers “stripped to their skivvies” and jumped in the water for a risky rescue by forming a human chain.

They were able to get the rope around the woman and safely bring her to shore.

Read more: 1 person in hospital after Red River rescue: WFPS

Smyth said because of the poor visibility, there was a lot of concern on the scene about whether the scheme would work.

“When the woman in the water suddenly went silent … it was really a helpless feeling, as I wondered if I was going to witness a drowning.

“As a concerned citizen and as chief of police, I held my breath, worried about the woman in the water and worried about our members who were now in the water.

“I didn’t expect to be a witness, but it was nice to see their professionalism.”

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After the rescue, the woman was taken to hospital in stable condition.

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