It was a tense few hours Wednesday evening, November 13, for emergency personnel from Winnipeg’s Fire Department and Police Services as they responded to an emergency call that a young man was walking on the Red River’s thin ice near downtown.
Scouting along the Red River around 8:00 p.m. last evening, several Winnipeg fire fighters and police officers were searching with lights on both sides of the river banks. They were frantically looking for a 25 to 30 year old man who was spotted walking on the ice in the middle of the Red River.
Unavailable to talk due to the critical situation with the possibility of the man falling through the ice, the Winnipeg Fire Department official could only comment, “There is a man walking on the ice in the middle of the river,” and continued on with his search.
Eyewitness, Réal Rioux and another by-stander, Bob Ray, spotted the man walking in the middle of the Red River from the Alexander Docks while they were at Pointe Hébert, where they maintain the area.
After another unidentified individual walking a dog called 911, Rioux and Ray scurried along a dark path on the riverbank, using binoculars to follow the man on the river, as they were concerned for his safety.
“All I seen is the ambulance get to the end of the road,” said Rioux, “so when we got down there we saw the fellow in the centre of the Red River walking towards us.”
The man reportedly walked southbound on the river, jumping on ice mounds, and then dove into the water at the point where the ice ended between the CN Highline and Provencher Bridge. From there he dog paddled in the frigid waters, weaving towards the river bank where a team was there to help him at about 8:30 p.m.
The reason the man was on the river is unknown, however Rioux commented, “All I heard it’s something to do with his girlfriend” and he was taken away in an ambulance.
Ambulance, fire department and police personnel were unavailable for comment.
This is the time of year that the public is reminded to stay off all waterways because of how dangerous it is to venture out onto the ice.
All photos by M. LeBlanc