A nine-year-old boy is in a Winnipeg hospital in critical condition after his mother and neighbours found him partially buried in a snowbank.

Winnipeg police confirmed to CBC News that the boy was rushed to hospital in critical condition at around 8 p.m. Wednesday, following an incident in the city's Fort Richmond neighbourhood.

'He was really stuck in the snow.' — Cathy Kinsman, neighbour

Police believe the boy may have been in a tunnel or snow fort. It's not known how long the child was under the snow.

Neighbours told CBC News on Thursday that the child was seen outside playing on a snowbank at around 6:15 p.m.

About an hour later, his mother began screaming for help when she found him partially buried in the snow and was unable to pull him out.

Rebecca Hall was the first to rush out to help. 

She said Friday she can't get the mother's screams out of her mind. Hall told her mother to call 911 and to knock on neighbours' doors to try and help. 

Cathy Kinsman said she, her husband and several other adults used their bare hands to dig out the boy, who was unconscious and lying on his back with a lot of snow on his chest and midsection. Neighbours performed CPR on him.

Snowbank where boy was found

A nine-year-old boy was found partially buried in this snowbank on Wednesday evening. He was taken to hospital in critical condition. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)

"Everybody was just, you know, digging with their hands because he was quite covered on his chest and legs," Cathy Kinsman told CBC News on Thursday.

"He had snow on his face, but it was cleared. His eyes were partly open."

Kinsman said no one seems to know what exactly went wrong — if the boy was injured while playing, or if he was digging inside the snowbank.

"He was playing in the snow. He loved to be outside," she said.

"I don't know whether he was tunnelling or building a fort or what, but he was really stuck in the snow." 

The boy is currently on a ventilator, trying to breathe on his own, according to Kinsman.

Rebecca Hall said she's heard the boy's mother has not left his side. 

Police said the incident is not believed to be suspicious.

Kinsman and fellow neighbour Lauri Eagles said the incident has served as a wakeup call, and they are warning parents to watch their children closely as they're playing outdoors.

"It makes me nervous. I mean, look at the snow, the mounds are high. I have little kids; I let them play out in the snow, trying to get them more fresh air all the time," said Eagles.

"I watch them as closely as I can, but it never occurred to me that snow could be harmful."

With files from the CBC's Caroline Barghout