Rinelle Harper reaches out to rescuer, thanks him for saving her life
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, November 20, 2014 12:18PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 20, 2014 8:02PM EST
A Winnipeg teen who was brutally assaulted and left to die next to a river was reunited with one of her rescuers Thursday.
Rinelle Harper and her family met with Sean Vincent at downtown Winnipeg hotel. The 16-year-old and her family presented Vincent with a soapstone carving of a polar bear and a painting from her First Nation.
Rinelle did not speak to reporters and appeared to shy away from all of the attention. A red bruise remained around her eye. Her family hugged Vincent and thanked him for his help.
The second rescuer, Ed Mehanovic, could not attend, but Rinelle and her family still plan to meet him.
Vincent and Mehanovic found the 16-year-old Rinelle under a downtown bridge by the Assiniboine River on the morning of Nov 8. A passerby noticed Rinelle and flagged down the two construction workers.
When they found Rinelle, she was bruised and battered and they said they didn’t believe she would survive. Vincent called 911 and they rushed to the teen's side. The two men covered her with their coats and waited for emergency crews to arrive. She was taken to hospital in critical condition.
CTV Manitoba's Jill Macyshon tweeted that Vincent still thinks about the moment when he first saw Harper "all the time," but he downplayed his role in the rescue.
"At the end of the day, she's the hero," he told CTV Winnipeg. "We were just people going to work on a Saturday. We were just in the right place at the right time."
Rinelle was released from the hospital a week ago.
Grand Chief David Harper, a relative and representative of Manitoba's northern chiefs, said Rinelle hasn't completely recovered, but she is feeling better.
"Over the last several days we've been observing her," he said. "The swelling in her eye and the swelling in the other parts of her body still haven't quite healed yet."
Police said that on Nov. 7 Rinelle was out with friends celebrating the end of midterms. The teen, from the northern reserve of Garden Hill, was a student at a boarding school for aboriginal students in Winnipeg. After getting separated from her friends, she encountered two males. The three started talking and walked to Assiniboine River, where police say Rinelle was assaulted and ended up in the water.
Rinelle crawled upstream but was attacked again and "left for dead."
Two men are facing charges, including attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault. A 17-year-old, who cannot be named, and 20-year-old Justin James Hudson are set to appear in court next week.
Police allege the pair attacked and sexually assaulted another woman shortly after.