River rescue
Yk man jumps in to save Winnipeg woman

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 22/99) - It started out as dinner with friends in Winnipeg, and ended with a rescue in Winnipeg's Red River.

Wally and Donna Lemay, with their new baby boy Bowen, were on their way to Ontario to visit family. En route, they stopped in at friends in Winnipeg for dinner.

The LeMay's and Laurie and Doug Shattuck had just sat down to eat when a man, out walking his dog, was at the door. He said there was someone in the river.

"Laurie called 911 and we went running across the park to the river. We got to the edge and saw her," LeMay said.

"I called out to her and she answered in a feeble voice. She was in the middle of the river so I shucked my cowboy boots, by that time they were full of muck."

LeMay said by the time he reached her, the women was weak and blue. He grabbed her collar and dragged her back to shore, all the while, drifting downstream. Lemay said he worked with the current, rather than fight it to get to the shore.

"I found out her name was Jenny. I kept talking to her."

The river flows through the heart of Winnipeg emptying into Lake Winnipeg to the north.

The water turned out to be colder than Lemay thought. He was wet for about 25 minutes. That meant the women was in even longer. By LeMay's count, the woman, in her 50s, was getting weaker and possibly had hypothermia.

By the time he reached shore, LeMay said he was up to his knees in Manitoba gumbo -- the silty banks of the river.

At least one passerby was mortified to find out LeMay, on at least one occasion, was completely submerged in the river. LeMay, who flies First Air's Hercules aircraft, did not get sick from jumping in. The only casualties were his mud-stained socks, shirt and underwear. They just wouldn't come clean.

With help from people along shore, the woman was pulled from the murky waters.

By this time the fire department had showed up. The woman was taken to hospital. It appears she jumped from the Osborne bridge.

Only she knows the circumstances which led to her decision. During the rescue she told LeMay she didn't want to involve anyone. LeMay said obviously she had problems. But he adds, now, with some help, maybe she will be able to straighten those problems out.