Edmonton woman rescued after going into the river to save her dog

A woman pulled from Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River on Saturday afternoon was rescued just seconds before the current moved huge sheets of ice in her direction.

She was chest-deep in the North Saskatchewan River but couldn't climb up the slippery riverbank

First responders pull a woman out of Edmonton's North Saskatchewan River on Saturday. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

A woman pulled from Edmonton's North Saskatchewan River on Saturday afternoon was rescued just seconds before the current moved huge sheets of ice in her direction.

The woman, who was in her 30s, fell through the ice on the north side of the river at Dawson Park when she ventured onto it to save her dog. Bystanders managed to pull the small dog out of the river, but said the woman was stuck in the freezing water for about 10 minutes.

Fire Capt. Bob Murray, from Fire Station 1, said rescue crews walked toward her on the ice from both directions, with rapid deployment crafts at their sides. Murray said he fears the woman would have gone under the water if crews hadn't reached her when they did.

"It's crazy. By the time we got her, within 30 seconds that ice started to move with our members still on the ice," he said.

First responders load the woman into an ambulance. Her dog was already inside. (Anna McMillan/CBC)

First responders hooked the rescue boat to a haul line and pulled the woman up the steep riverbank.

She and her dog were taken to hospital in an ambulance. Murray said her feet were banged up, but she didn't appear to have sustained any serious injuries.

Bystanders kept victim calm

Fire trucks were stationed at Riverside Golf Course, Jasper Avenue and both the Rowland and Wayne Gretzky Drive bridges, as crews had a hard time pinpointing the woman's location.

It was bystanders in the park who spotted her first.

"It's good that they were there because we really couldn't see her, so they were like our spotters," Murray said. "Without them, we might have not been able to find the patient in time."

Kate and Derek Sehn were two of the first people who heard shrieking along the riverbank.

Derek and Kate Sehn helped keep the victim calm while she waited to be rescued. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

They were walking their two dogs when they heard someone calling after a pet that had run onto the ice. Derek Sehn said the dog was panicking, so the woman swam out and managed to get hold of it.

He said he moved closer to the bank, where the woman handed him the soaked animal. But the Sehns and several other people who helped with the rescue efforts couldn't pull the woman out of the water.

"The ice broke underneath her and so at that point she started sinking," Kate said. "So we just decided to stop any movement and just keep her company."

The woman was chest deep in the water and was starting to turn blue but couldn't climb up the slippery slope along the river, said Kate Sehn. Witnesses kept the woman talking until first responders pulled her from the water.

'It's too dangerous to be near the river'

Kate Sehn said she understands why the woman took the risk of going onto the ice to save her pet.

"I know the fire rescue department would say it's exceptionally stupid, but I think many owners would probably try to get their pets," she said.

But Derek said he isn't sure he would do the same.

"After seeing how quickly the ice moved, it's pretty hard to really say I would go. Because that didn't seem real until I saw it today," he said.

Rescue crews were able to reach the woman by walking on the ice. A few moments after the rescue, the ice was gone. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Murray stressed the importance of staying away from the river — especially as the ice starts to melt.

"If you're near water, keep your pet on leash. Because something could spook your dog and he'll want to run toward the water," he said.

"It's too dangerous to be near the river because the ice is flowing from all over the place. It's soft ice, and if you're trying to step on it, you're going to go through."

About the Author

Anna McMillan


Anna McMillan is a reporter at CBC Edmonton. You can reach her at anna.mcmillan@cbc.ca


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