RIVERS — A freak accident at the Rivers Reservoir spillway has left a 58-year-old woman dead and a 39-year-old man presumed drowned.
RCMP responded to an ATV collision at the spillway, roughly 29 kilometres northwest of Brandon, on Saturday at approximately 8:30 p.m.
The Rivers woman was attempting to drive an ATV down a steep embankment when she lost control, striking the Brandon man who was fishing at the time.
"Speaking to the members and people who are familiar with the area … it is quite a challenging decline to get down," said Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel. "We’re still in the initial parts of our investigation, but our understanding is that she did strike a barricade of some sort that’s out there."
The woman died at the scene, while the man fell into the water, which had a very strong current. Search and rescue efforts were made by the RCMP underwater recovery team and the Office of the Fire Commissioner to no avail.
By Monday afternoon, the man still had not been found.
"We did have our underwater recovery team, we had divers, but again the current is very strong there so we’re a bit limited as to what we can do that way," Seel said.
Helicopters were scanning the area, as well as ground search crews.
"It’s one of those terrible, terrible things," Seel said. "It appears she was wearing a helmet. It doesn’t appear that alcohol was a factor."
The search is ongoing, and an RCMP forensic collison reconstructionist is assisting with the investigation.
RCMP did not release the name of the victims; however, several Rivers community members identified the woman as Jeanette Pearson.
Friend and former neighbour Shelly Brown said Pearson was a woman with a "heart of gold."
"She’d do anything for anybody," Brown said. "She was a hard worker, she loved her kids, her grandkids, the outdoors … that was her life."
The family declined comment when contacted by the Brandon Sun.
The incident took place on Saturday, when the community was hosting an appreciation night for the local police and fire departments at the Riverdale Community Centre.
"They were all there for an appreciation supper, meet and greet and a fundraiser for the fire department, and they got called away to this," Brown said. "Very tragic."
Eleanor Madden, who lives close to the Rivers Reservoir, said when she heard the news she was "horrified."
The spillway is a well-known spot for fishermen, many who regularly come out on weekends.
Madden added that the area is also popular for ATV enthusiasts.
"Nothing’s ever happened like that here, all the years we’ve lived in Rivers," said Madden, who has lived in the community for 50 years. "It’s just one of those freak accidents."
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