An emotional meeting took place in Winnipeg on Thursday between 16-year-old Rinelle Harper and the two construction workers who found her earlier this month after she had crawled out of the Assiniboine River following a sexual assault, only to be assaulted again by the same attackers.​

The reunion came after Harper's family reached out to the men, Sean Vincent and Ed Mehanovic.

The meeting took place at a downtown hotel, in front of the city's media outlets, on the condition that Harper's face not be shown in its current state of healing.

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Rinelle Harper, in red, Sean Vincent, who called 911, and Rinelle's mother, Julie Harper, met Thursday in Winnipeg. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

Rinelle did not speak publicly during the meeting, but she quietly said thank you to Vincent as she handed him a gift that came from her family and home community.

Julie Harper, her mother, also had few words for the cameras, but she was grateful for what Vincent and Mehanovic had done.

"I'm so thankful for him — or them, I should say," she said. "I just said my thanks to him."

After the meeting, Vincent said it was gratifying to meet Rinelle.

"It was nice to see that she's doing well, that she's moving on and she's healthy and she's doing great," he said. "At the end of the day, like I said, she's the hero."


Harper thanked the two men who found her and called 911 after she was attacked. She did not want her face photographed Thursday because it is still bruised from the assault. (Handout )

​Mehanovic did not make it to the public meeting in time, but he told CBC News that he had been on his way to work on Nov. 8 when he and Vincent, a colleague, found the girl by the river.

Mehanovic's voice quavered as he described what it was like to see her crumpled on the river walkway. 

"Kind of horrible picture to see a female laying down like that, early in the morning and in the condition, the way she was," he said. "And for a second, I thought she was dead."

He said at first when they approached her, she didn't respond. 

"We tried to wake her up," he said. "We thought she's sleeping till we saw all the blood, like from the side, and on the leg."

They called 911 and waited with Harper for paramedics to arrive.

Mehanovic said while they were waiting for help, they tried to cover her.

'We took the jackets, covered [her] up, and for a few seconds, I was touching her hand like to see [if] she's still alive.' — Sean Vincent, construction worker

"We took the jackets, covered [her] up, and for a few seconds, I was touching her hand like to see [if] she's still alive, and she opened her eyes," he said.

"I think, like, she tried to push me away. She's thinking that somebody [was] attacking her or something, and she just lost [consciousness] again."

Vincent, 41, said the encounter has had a profound effect on him, as his own daughter is nearly Harper's age. 

He said he thinks about Harper all the time and has been watching the media track her recovery. 

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Sean Vincent is one of two men who found Harper. He has a daughter nearly Harper's age and says he's thrilled she is recovering from the attack. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

"I listened to her every day, how she's getting better and stronger and that she'd made it. That was nice to hear through the media and everything," he said.

Mehanovic and Vincent each received a soapstone carving of a polar bear and a painting from Harper's family and their home community in northern Manitoba.

Aboriginal leaders, including Grand Chief David Harper, who represents Manitoba's northern chiefs and is a distant relative of Rinelle Harper, said they hope to send the construction workers to a Winnipeg Jets game as a thank you.

Shortly after Winnipeg police went public with Harper's case, a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were arrested and charged with attempted murder.