Rescuer's message: call 911

Woman risks life to save person from river while passerby watches

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
January 8, 2013 01:00 AM

Downtown resident Colleen Mulrey helped rescue a suicidal women from the Thompson River off Riverside Park.

A woman who risked her life to save another's from the icy South Thompson River can't believe a third party stood by and watched instead of phoning 911 for help.

Colleen Mulrey asked the passerby to find the nearest phone when a 31-year-old woman tried drowning herself at Riverside Park, she said.

"If someone asks you to call 911, just do it," Mulrey said Tuesday.

Mulrey, who is 56 and about five feet two inches tall, eventually got the woman to shore and found someone who phoned for help.

A resident at Emerald House who is new to Kamloops, Mulrey walked to Riverside late Monday morning to look at the birds. She wasn't there long when she noticed a woman in her 30s.

Wanting her own space, Mulrey headed to the pier. When she looked back, the woman had moved closer to the river.

Mulrey returned her gaze to the birds, then back to the woman - who was several metres into the water by then.

"She had made a beeline and she wasn't stopping," she said.

Not having a cellphone, Mulrey looked for help. She saw an elderly woman further down the trail watching the person in the water. Mulrey ran to her and asked her to phone for help. The elderly woman said her cellphone didn't work.

"Just go find someone and call 911," Mulrey says she told her.

Mulrey turned her attention back to the woman in the water and repeatedly asked if she wanted help. At first, the woman declined, saying she intended to kill herself, she said.

Eventually, the troubled woman changed her mind and Mulrey took off her jacket and hat and waded into the river.

When the water was waist deep, Mulrey swam the last couple of metres to reach the distressed woman. She tried hoisting the woman over her shoulders, but the effort put them both under water.

In the end, the woman held onto the back of Mulrey's shirt and they swam to shore.

That's when the water felt its coldest, she said. And for about three metres of the swim, Mulrey said she wasn't sure either of them would make it to shore.

But they did, and while sitting on the beach hugging each other for warmth, Mulrey noticed the elderly woman she'd urged to call 911 looking at them. She asked the wet pair if they still needed help.

"Do you still need help?" the woman asked Mulrey.

"She didn't go for help at all," Mulrey continued.

With no help on the way, Mulrey got the woman to her feet and walked her toward the nearest parking lot. She said a man came along who did phone 911 and emergency crews arrived within minutes.

The troubled woman was taken to Royal Inland Hospital for treatment and RCMP gave Mulrey a ride home.

Kamloops Fire and Rescue assistant chief Curtis Bossert said what Mulrey did was dangerous. At this time of year especially, hypothermia sets in quickly and then there's two people distress.

"We don't want two victims," he said.

Bossert said the best thing to do is get to a phone and dial 911, rather than trying to assist someone in such a circumstance.

But Mulrey said she wasn't prepared to let someone drown.


© Kamloops Daily News

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