Teen who was assaulted, left for dead by river to meet men who found her

A teen who was viciously beaten, assaulted and left to die beside a Winnipeg river was planning Thursday to meet the men who rescued her.

WINNIPEG — A teen who was viciously beaten, assaulted and left to die beside a Winnipeg river was planning Thursday to meet the men who rescued her.

The two construction workers found Rinelle Harper’s battered and bruised body under a downtown bridge near the Assiniboine River in the early morning of Nov. 8. They covered the 16-year-old with their coats, called 911 and waited with her until paramedics arrived.

Grand Chief David Harper, a relative who has been helping the family, said Rinelle and her parents have been wanting to meet the men and were planning to do so at a downtown hotel Thursday afternoon.

“The family wanted to meet the gentlemen, give them thanks and present them with a couple of gifts,” said Harper, who added that Rinelle was hoping to be there if she felt strong enough.

“She hasn’t stepped out yet, so we’re going to give it a shot.”

Rinelle was discharged from hospital a week ago, but Harper said she is still recuperating.

“She gets tired easily.”

Police have said Rinelle was out with friends celebrating the completion of her midterms the night of Nov. 7. The teen from the northern reserve of Garden Hill was studying at a boarding school for aboriginal students in Winnipeg.

She got separated from her friends and struck up a conversation with two males. The three walked to the Assiniboine River where police say Rinelle was attacked and ended up in the frigid water. She managed to crawl out upstream, but was attacked again and “left for dead,” police said.

A second woman was also beaten, sexually assaulted and left unconscious a short time later.

A 17-year-old, who cannot be named, and 20-year-old Justin James Hudson are facing numerous charges in the two assaults, including attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault. Both are to appear in court next week.

A passerby noticed Rinelle early the next morning and told construction workers Sean Vincent and Ed Mehanovic. The two told CTV they didn’t think the teen would survive. She was taken to hospital in critical condition.

“At the end of the day, we were just hoping for the best, that she made it,” Vincent said.

Mehanovic, who has daughters around the same age, said he was extremely disturbed by what happened.

“That’s somebody’s daughter. That’s somebody’s sister. That’s somebody’s friend,” he said.

The vicious assault, coming so soon after the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was found in the Red River, has prompted aboriginal leaders to call yet again for an end to violence against women.

Plans are afoot for Rinelle to address the meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Winnipeg next month when the group elects a new leader and discusses plans for a roundtable on missing and murdered aboriginal women.

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