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Winnipeg first responders make water rescue from fast-moving Assiniboine River

A person was sent to hospital in critical condition Sunday night after being rescued from strong currents on the Assiniboine River.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) says they got the call around 5:30 p.m., and sent crews to the Donald Street Bridge where they were able to rescue the person, who was being pulled toward the Red River by the current.

Officials are warning Manitobans to use extreme caution around waterways at this time of year.

“Some people forget, actually, how much water we have that runs through the city of Winnipeg,” Matt Rollason, the WFPS coordinator of water and ice rescue, told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg.

“If you’re counting the Red and Assiniboine rivers, that’s 123 km of frontage on there… and, as well, we have over 70 retention ponds. So there’s a lot of water for rescues to occur.

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“There’s lots of areas where people are enjoying our waterways or just congregating there.”

Another aspect of water rescues — especially in a cold-weather city like Winnipeg — is the potential for hypothermia, even this far into the spring.

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“You have to factor in hypothermia. That’s a big thing,” Rollason said.

“You handle the patient a bit differently when they’ve been submerged for so long… and lots of times they’re not able to help you, because they’re so they’re so exhausted, and with the hypothermia conditions, they’re obviously not in a good situation.

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“They’re just trying to fight for their lives at that point.”

The WFPS says it tackles about 150 water rescues each year, and that Winnipeggers should be cautious around any body of water.

Not only is it cold, but it can be extremely fast-moving, and could contain unseen debris that could make the situation even more dangerous.

Christopher Love with Lifesaving Society Manitoba said if you end up in a strong current, staying calm is the top priority.

“Don’t panic. You need to keep your wits about you, you need to be thinking about what you’re going to do,” he said.

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“The second thing that should happen immediately after that is… don’t try to fight the current, because if you push against it, you’re just going to exhaust yourself.”

Love said getting your head above the current, and positioning yourself to float feet-first is also important.

Equally as crucial: don’t jump in the water trying to rescue someone else. Leave that to the professionals.

“Do not put yourself at undue risk,” Love said.

“We’re not recommending anyone should be jumping in any of these rivers or streams to try to chase after someone to pull them out — because you could end up in the same circumstance very, very quickly.”

If you see someone struggling in the water, first responders say to call 911 immediately and try to keep track of where the person is to help rescuers locate them.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg police rescue young boy from currents of Red River'

Winnipeg police rescue young boy from currents of Red River

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