Manitoba

Outpouring of praise for homeless man who rescued teen from river

The homeless Winnipeg man who saved a teen from the frigid Red River on the weekend has been praised, criticized, and been made a season-ticket holder to Winnipeg's professional baseball team.

The homeless Winnipeg man who saved a teen from the frigid Red River on the weekend has been praised, criticized, and now holds season tickets for Winnipeg's professional baseball team.

Faron Hall and his friend Wayne Spence were sitting on the riverbank in the St. Boniface neighbourhood Sunday afternoon when a teen boy fell into the river.

'We honour people who save lives and that's something we like to do, but right now he wants to come to a Goldeyes game and I'm going to get him season tickets.'— Mayor Sam Katz

Hall threw off his backpack and jumped into the cold water, swimming on an angle against the current. He calmed the panicked boy and pull him back to shore, where Spence helped them out.

Reports of Hall's heroism were replayed on national news broadcasts throughout Tuesday and appeared in several newspapers.

People who have commented on the CBCNews.ca website for Manitoba have overwhelmingly lauded Hall for his bravery, calling him an inspiration and rallying other readers to fill out forms to nominate Hall for the Governor General's medal.

"He's a kind person, just quiet and gentle. He seems like the kind of person who would just be like, well, somebody's got to do something, so there he goes," said Sarah Enns, a community education co-ordinator at Siloam Mission.

Hall has stayed at the mission when the conditions outdoors were too brutal to bear. But Hall told the media his riverbank shelter has been home even when the temperatures have fallen to bone-chilling cold in the winter.

Goldeyes season tickets

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Sam Katz went to the riverbank Hall calls home to meet him. The men shook hands and when Katz asked Hall if there was anything he would like to do, he told the mayor that he'd always wanted to see a ball game in the city.

Katz, president and owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, promised Hall season tickets.

"We honour people who save lives and that's something we like to do, but right now he wants to come to a Goldeyes game and I'm going to get him season tickets," said Katz. "Hopefully he can come as often as he wants."

Katz also promised to give Hall a proper hero's honour at City Hall and present him with a medal in the very near future.

The provincial government also has plans to recognize Hall. Eric Robinson, the acting minister of aboriginal affairs, intends to honour him in the legislature on Wednesday.

Bravery comes with a caution

However, the Royal Lifesaving Society in Winnipeg wasn't cheering Hall's decision to jump into the river. It ended well, but it could have been a double tragedy, said the society's Elisabeth Proskurnik.

"We can't help but be really happy with how it turned out, and to thank Mr. Hall for his quick action. However, the chances are that anyone trying to repeat those actions, the outcome wouldn't be as good," she said.

'The chances are that anyone trying to repeat those actions, the outcome wouldn't be as good.'— Elisabeth Proskurnik, Royal Lifesaving Society

The unpredictable and fast-running river, still swollen with flood waters, could have killed both Hall and the boy he was trying to save, she said, pointing to the drowning deaths of a father and son near Lockport two summers ago as an example of what can happen when an untrained person attempts a water rescue.

Anyone who is confronted by a situation like the one Hall encountered should call police immediately, then try and call out to the person in the water and coax them to shore, Proskurnik advised.

According to witnesses, the teen boy had tried to leap across a gap from the traffic lanes of the Provencher Bridge to an adjacent pedestrian bridge, but didn't make it.

Marion Willis, who was walking on the bridge and saw the entire event unfold, opened her home to the men. She gave Spence a meal and clean clothes, and let him have a warm bath.

Hall was unable to enjoy the hospitality because he was in the hospital being checked over by doctors. The teen was also taken to hospital by an ambulance. His condition is not known.

Hall said he just hopes "the kid" he rescued has a good life and doesn't end up on the streets like him.

Hall's life turned upside down

Hall said his life took a swift downturn a few years ago after his mother was murdered. Alcohol got the best of him, he said. Prior to that, he went to high school, worked as a teacher's aide and was studying at university to become a teacher.

The Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), an advocacy group for First Nations people in southern Manitoba, is trying to do something special for both Hall and Spence, trying to reconnect them with their families and find them proper housing.

"Is there anything else that you need?" SCO Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo, who was also on hand to congratulate Hall on Tuesday, asked the modest man.

The answer was a short, simple list that included new running shoes, a warm bed for the night, and a bus ticket to go back to his reserve to see his dad, whom he hasn't seen in nine years.

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