Mountie risks life in daring water rescue

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KELOWNA - A Kelowna Mountie is being hailed as a hero for jumping into the frigid water of Okanagan Lake last week to rescue a distraught woman.

It was 10:30 p.m. Nov. 27 when police received a report that a young woman might be about to jump off the William R. Bennett Bridge into the black water below. When they arrived, they found the 21-year-old clinging to the outside of the passenger walkway at the peak of the northbound side. The first officer on scene tried to negotiate with the woman. Unconvinced, she pushed off, falling into the shadows below, slicing into the water feet first.

Whatever her intentions, her head soon broke the surface and she appeared uninjured as she began treading water. 

Mounties moved quickly to remove the seats from the back of the police cruiser, tossing them down to the woman to use as a floatation device, but she ignored the gesture and swam away.

As events continued, Corp. Matt Hare and a Patrons WRB Bridge employee maneuvered to the water's edge on the West Bank deciding another approach was required to get the woman out of the water. They could see her efforts were becoming laboured.

Hare dove into the icy lake and began pulling through the water to the woman's aid. He grabbed hold of one of the floating foam seats and used the device to help bring the woman to shore. The bridge employee was waiting to carry the woman up the bank to the roadway where she and Hare were treated for hypothermia.

"After seeing the woman swim away from safety and begin struggling due to the cold, I knew that we couldn't wait for a boat so there was only one thing to do," Corp. Hare said. "Without someone's help, she wasn't going to come ashore and it would've turned into a recovery mission."

Apparently, Hare was involved in another recent water rescue, helping to pull an intoxicated swimmer from the lake in September. Both times, he managed to bring people safely to shore.

"Our members continue to impress me with the work they do every day," officer in charge of the Kelowna RCMP, Supt. Nick Romanchuk said. "Corp. Hare displayed exceptional bravery by saving this woman's life, at great risk to his own."

The woman rescued last Wednesday was sent to hospital to receive treatment. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.

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