Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman drove into river on purpose

Texted father of impending suicide attempt; Mounties raced to Fairford to save her

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She was plucked from the icy water of a fast-flowing river by a heroic RCMP officer who joined forces with some courageous community members.

But the family of a 22-year-old Manitoba woman who was rescued earlier this month say it's too early to conclude her story will have a happy ending.

The woman -- whom the Free Press has chosen not to identify out of sensitivity to her situation -- is battling a deep depression, one which loved ones fear will drive her back into the same dark place that led to her suicide attempt.

"After she was rescued, she was still saying 'I want to die,' " the woman's mother told the Free Press on Thursday in a phone interview from her home in Fairford, about 240 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Her daughter was taken to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg after deliberately driving her car into the Fairford River on May 10. But she was discharged about 24 hours later with antidepressants, sleeping pills and orders to see her family doctor and book an appointment with a counsellor.

"I was a little shocked they released her the next day," the woman's mother said. "The doctor had signed a form to have her admitted involuntarily. I don't know what changed. I was pretty disappointed."

'After she was rescued, she was still saying "I want to die" '

-- mother of Manitoba woman rescued from the Fairford River

She's worried there will be another suicide attempt.

"She's been suffering from clinical depression for a number of years. She says it started when she was about 12 and has been getting worse. And this was not her first (suicide) attempt," the mother said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority doesn't comment on specific cases, citing personal privacy.

Her daughter has been hospitalized before, shortly after giving birth two years ago and again after an overdose last summer.

She stopped taking medication, her mother said.

The mother came to Winnipeg on the afternoon of May 10 but described having an "uneasy" feeling when she left her daughter earlier that day alone at home with her two-year-old son.

"I kept calling her to check on her. It was around 4 p.m. when I called and I could tell she had been drinking," she said.

Moments later, the young woman texted her father saying she was going to lock her son in his bedroom, get in the car and take a deadly plunge off the nearby Fairford Bridge.

The text prompted numerous frantic phone calls to RCMP, Child and Family Services and even a next-door neighbour who rushed into the home and found the toddler alone but in good condition.

"I was praying really hard for her on our drive home," the mother said Thursday.

RCMP acted quickly. Gypsumville RCMP Const. Fraser Potts jumped into the frigid water just as the young woman escaped from her sinking car. He swam to her, grabbed on and began swimming towards the shore when local band members in a boat came by to pull them both to safety.

"I didn't want this girl to die," Potts, 28, said last week. "She was mumbling 'Can't swim, can't swim.' I was trying to show her how to swim but the current was pulling her away."

Both Potts and the woman were taken to the hospital in Ashern. As he was being discharged later that night, Potts stopped by the room of the young woman, who had been joined by her parents.

"I asked her if she remembered what happened," he said. The woman seemed to still be in a daze, so Potts recounted the dramatic events that had taken place a few hours earlier.

"And she said thanks," he said. "Her parents were also very thankful."

The woman's mother repeated that story on Thursday, saying Potts, his partner and the community members are true heroes in their eyes.

"It was just amazing how everything worked, I'm really grateful. (Potts) put his life on the line," she said.

Now, the focus is on making sure her daughter makes the most of her second chance at life. She has been granted temporary custody of her grandson and is keeping close watch on her daughter, who is living at her home.

"We just have to keep an eye on her, make sure she's getting treatment, getting help," she said. Early results are encouraging because the medication seems to be making a difference, she said.

"This has all been really hard to go through," she said. "We're really hoping she's going to get the help she needs."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2013 A4

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