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Winnipeg Police Service


News Room – Inside the Winnipeg Police Service

Separate acts of heroism forever linked

By Derek Holton

Walter Mousseau and Daniel Belanger had never met each other before the evening of March 16, but the two will be forever linked due to their heroic and nearly identical actions during the spring and summer of 2016.

Both men were separately recognized at the Winnipeg Police Service Volunteer and Citizens Appreciation Dinner for doing the same thing – leaping into the treacherous waters of the Red River to save someone in need.

During a break in the evening’s festivities both men spoke about their incidents, and how they continue to resonate months later.

“There was more thinking than I thought there would be,” said Belanger, reflecting on the day he pulled someone out of the river. “I have a background in police communications, and talking about it on the phone and doing it in person are two different things.”

“But all of this is surreal,” he added. “I’m used to being on the other side of the microphone.”

Though he realized the possibility of harm to himself, Mousseau also literally went head first into danger to help someone in need.

“I do what I got to do when I see someone in trouble,” he said, adding this is the second time he has rescued someone from the river. “If someone needs help I’m right there for them. People know that about me – I’ve taken training to help suicidal people.”

The two incidents mirror one another. Belanger saved a woman from drowning after she jumped off the Louise Bridge on Aug. 13, 2016. Witnesses reported she was in danger of being pulled under due to the strong current, and could have drowned if not for Belanger’s actions.

“At first I thought it was perhaps a log, but when I looked closer I saw her hand go up, and then she went under,” said Belanger. “I guess my training kicked in because I analyzed the situation and the risk to my own life. But a life is a life, and when she went down a second time I was already in the water.

“I was able to get to her, and squeeze her to see if she was alive, and I began to comfort her as I started to swim towards the shore.”

Mousseau’s event happened much earlier – on May 6, 2016. The current was stronger and the water much colder.  He witnessed a female jump off the Redwood Bridge who ended up being temporarily paralyzed due to the impact. Had he not aided in her rescue she could have drowned in the icy water.

“The water was very cold – I was definitely thinking about that,” said Mousseau. “When I came across the bridge a group was trying to get the woman off the railing, and then she just jumped into the water. My daughter had been trying to hold her but she went in.

“I followed her on the shore until I was about even with her in the river,” he added. “When I jumped in the water was very cold. I managed to catch my breath and then I swam towards her. She was barely sticking out of the water. I grabbed her shirt and pulled her towards the shore. By that time the police were also in the water and they helped pull her in.”

Mousseau said the woman who he aided later found him via social media and thanked him for saving her life. Belanger said he never did hear how the female he aided fared following the traumatic incident and that he in a way envious of Mousseau for getting a measure of closure.

Both men were recognized during the 2017 Winnipeg Police Volunteer and Citizen Appreciation Dinner, held at the Viscount Gort Hotel on an evening several other honoured citizens were acknowledged. This list includes Arlene Last-Kolb for her selfless work in Fentanyl awareness following the tragic death of her son Jessie to an overdose, as well as Jon Waldman and Andrew McCrea for their work in reducing property crime in the River Heights area with their “Smashed Windows Club” Facebook group

Also honoured were bagpipers Lesley Gaudry and Michael MacIver. Awards, service pins and recognition were also bestowed on the WPS Choir, Victim Services, as well as those in the Community Volunteer Program.

Daniel Belanger, left, and Walter Mousseau will be forever linked due to their heroic actions in the spring and summer of 2016.

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth presents a certificate to Walter Mousseau honouring his efforts to save a woman from the Red River.

 Daniel Belanger accepts congratulations from Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth for his quick actions to save a woman from drowning in the Red River.

Jon Waldman and Andrew McCrea, the men behind the “Smashed Window Club” which helped reduce vandalism in the River Heights area, pose with Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth.

Arlene Last-Kolb was recognized for her selfless efforts to educate the public on the dangers of Fentanyl after losing her son to an overdose. Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth presented her with an acknowledgement of her work.

Bagpipers Lesley Gaudry and Michael MacIver were recognized for their efforts both within the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band and in the community. Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth presented both recipients with a certificate to honour their efforts.