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Would-be rescuer who suffered coronary recovering

Second water-taxi crew saves woman in water

AL SMITH, the water-taxi captain who suffered a heart attack Friday afternoon trying to rescue a man who disappeared into the Red River, is on the road to recovery, his boss said Sunday.

Remarkably, another water taxi crew helped save a woman in a separate incident later that afternoon.

"Our staff was over yesterday to visit him. He's recovering; that's the main thing," said Gordon Cartwright, owner of the Splash Dash water-taxi service.

Smith, 65, who had operated a water taxi for the past two years, attempted a rescue Friday when he saw a man fall into the Red River.

Smith suffered a heart attack just after he grabbed a flotation ring to throw to the man in the water, Cartwright said.

Smith was taken to St. Boniface Hospital, where surgeons performed an angioplasty and inserted five stents, Cartwright said. Smith was still in intensive care under close watch Sunday, Cartwright said.

With no one located Saturday, police units were back in the Red River Sunday searching for the missing man.

Cartwright said his river-boat operators had taxied by the scene where police divers were focused several times Sunday.

Police and the river harbour master had a visible presence on the scene just south of the Alexander Docks Sunday. They appeared to be heavily focused at the foot of a rail bridge spanning the Red in that area.

On Sunday afternoon, the discovery of a body north of the docks in plastic or some other material opened up a separate homicide investigation.

Police had searched all day Saturday for the man who'd gone missing in the Red River Friday afternoon near the Provencher Bridge.

The Winnipeg Police Service said an off-duty officer spotted a man in the water "who appeared to be in distress" around 2 p.m. Friday. The officer flagged down a nearby water taxi, captained by Smith, and directed it to the area where he saw the man struggling to stay afloat.

The identity of the man in the water, presumed drowned, remains unknown.

Meanwhile, in a second incident Friday, the water taxi was also involved when a woman was pulled from the water in a successful rescue.

"The second recovery happened about 45 minutes after the first incident. There was an aboriginal woman swimming in the middle of the river... around the Provencher Bridge," Cartwright said.

Another of Splash Dash's river-boat captains threw in a flotation ring, which the woman caught. She clung to the side of the boat as it pulled into the shore.

"She was fine. She climbed out around the Provencher Bridge and walked away," Cartwright said. He said the river boat captain saw Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service crews meet the woman at the shoreline, but it looked as though she declined medical aid from the crew on shore.

"It was a busy day on the shoreline," Cartwright said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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