Not everyone would swim across the frigid Red Deer River to save a stranger, but Keenan Rose didn’t think twice.
The Red Deer man was walking his dog in Great Chief Park at about 6:25 p.m. on Monday when he heard a scream from across the river.
He saw a woman, who was attempting to climb down a 15-metre cliff on the opposite bank, stumble head over heels and fall into the water.
“She slid down and it was pretty steep . . . at one point, her feet were over her head,” recalled Rose, who didn’t know how hurt the woman was before she hit the river.
“I wasn’t sure if she was fine at the time, and I wasn’t sure she could swim, so I jumped in,” said the 25-year-old carpenter.
He first handed his dog’s leash to two other passersby to hold.
The river was extremely cold, but Rose said it wasn’t flowing too fast — which was good, since he doesn’t consider himself an overly strong swimmer.
Although the water level was almost shallow enough to walk across until about halfway, he said the river bottom then dropped off sharply until the depth was over his head.
The 37-year-old woman was conscious when he reached her and didn’t try to fight him or drag him down. Rose said, “I guess she was co-operative” as he pulled her to shore.
He believes some teenagers who witnessed her fall called 911.
Once on the opposite bank, a shivering Rose stayed with the woman for what seemed a very long time before rescuers arrived. Since she could have suffered a concussion, he said he thought it best to stay and talk to her so she didn’t lose consciousness.
“I didn’t know what to do, so I waited until the fire department came.”
Rose finally saw an emergency worker rappel down the cliff, while other Red Deer Emergency Services rescuers launched a boat into the river.
The woman ended up being saved by boat in a two-hour effort that involved 14 EMS personnel and some RCMP officers.
This was found to be easier than trying to bring her back up the embankment.
She was transported to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and treated for minor injuries. Alcohol is believed to have been a contributing factor to the fall, which happened near Warwick Avenue in West Lake.
Rose’s father-in-law, Brock Brown, considers Rose a hero for risking his life by swimming across the river to save someone. “He was almost hypothermic from the swim. Personally, I think he deserves a medal.”
But Rose doesn’t believe he did anything special or heroic. “I just went across and gave her a hand. I was pretty confident there were no safety concerns for myself.”
He called the woman’s attempt to climb down the steep embankment foolhardy and dangerous. “She was really lucky” that she wasn’t badly hurt or killed, he said.
Ted Hickey, deputy fire chief with Red Deer Emergency Services, commended Rose for taking such “terrifically” quick action, and for safely getting across the river to save the woman.
“It’s incredibly heart warming . . . to see that people in Red Deer care about their neighbours and are willing to provide assistance to people in need.”
The department will look into whether Rose’s actions could be considered for a bravery award.