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'Guardian angel' roofers save woman from drowning in icy Red River

Thursday, November 21st 2019, 3:24 pm - Mike Girardin and Jesse Reimer were working on a roof in Selkirk, Man., when they heard screams

A Selkirk woman is lucky to be alive after falling in the icy Red River Tuesday.

Mike Girardin and Jesse Reimer, who work for Racka Roofing, based in Blumenort, Man., heard Teresa Byra scream, but first thought it was children playing.

"We decided to investigate and the closer we go to the river, it became more apparent that this was a woman in danger," Girardin said.

The roofers are now being called heroes for rescuing Byra, who had fallen through thin ice on the Red River near Selkirk, Man., about 35 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

"Not a lot of thinking happened. I ran over there and grabbed her arm because she was literally hanging onto a little ice ledge and there were large chunks of ice floating down the river," Girardin told CBC's Marjorie Dowhos Thursday.

The men pulled Byra out of the water, but the ice was so thin near the shore, all three of them fell into knee-deep water.

"It's a little surreal thinking about it now. We didn't realize the danger we put ourselves into, but it kind of worked out for everyone," Girardin said.

Once the trio were safe on shore, Girardin and Reimer put Byra in her car to warm up and waited for paramedics to arrive to make sure she didn't have hypothermia, but she was OK.

As for the men, they were just cold and wet.

"We were soaking wet. All of our winter clothes were turning to ice at that point, so we decided we were going to shut it down and go home," Girardin said.

"We had to go to Walmart to buy new socks before we went home."

CBC - Manitoba rescue Teresa Byra hugs Jesse Reimer and Mike Girardin, the men she calls her 'guardian angels' after they saved her life. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)


Byra said she's shaken after her brush with death.

She was on a dock Tuesday to take photos for a memorial she was making for a friend who died, when she slipped on the ice.

"The water was open where I fell and it just carried me down, probably 20 or 30 feet with the current, I'm not sure," she said.

Byra was screaming for help when she saw Girardin and Reimer coming down the hill.

"It looked like they were coming in slow motion. I thought they weren't going to make it in time, because the bigger ice was coming," she said.

Two roofers are now being called heroes for rescuing Teresa Byra, who had fallen through thin ice on the Red River near Selkirk, Man. 1:35 Once they pulled her out, they had to drag Byra to the car, she said.

"I couldn't walk. I had no feeling in my legs or my hands. It was terrible," she said.



The next day, Girardin and Reimer were back on the roof to finish the work they started when Byra returned with her daughter and grandchild to see them.

"I introduced them and I said, 'This is what you saved me for. My kids still have me, my grandkids still have me.' I have four kids and I have four grandkids and one stepdaughter," Byra said.

"I said … 'You guys are my heroes. You're my guardian angels."

Girardin said he's never done anything like it before.

"We keep hearing the word 'hero' thrown around, and it's a little surreal," he said.


Girardin and Reimer are being recognized by the local RCMP detachment for their heroism in what was a life-or-death situation.

The men are nominated for two Canada-wide awards, the Royal Canadian Humane Association's bravery award and the St. John's Ambulance lifesaving award, Const. David Wong said.

"I feel strongly that these two gentlemen definitely deserve some recognition of some sort," Wong said.

"If I could give them the awards today, I would."

The dock where Byra slipped and fell was cordoned off, Wong said.

This article was written for the CBC by Rachel Bergen.

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