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Winnipeg rowing coach honoured for heroism

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Jesse Reitberger saved a girl from drowning after she jumped from the Norwood Bridge over the Red River last fall.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jesse Reitberger saved a girl from drowning after she jumped from the Norwood Bridge over the Red River last fall. Photo Store

Investment adviser Jesse Reitberger has always been known for helping people save money. Now he’s known for saving a life.

Reitberger was honoured at a Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada Manitoba Branch ceremony Thursday with a Rescue Commendation Award.

The organization recognizes and honours those who act with bravery in water-related incidents.

Reitberger, a coach with the Winnipeg Rowing club, saved a teenage girl who jumped off the Norwood Bridge into the Red River last November.

Two of his students were rowing under the bridge and they saw the teen plunge into the freezing river.

Reitberger was about 500 metres away and he piloted his motorboat to the girl in the river. Two of his rowing students, Tracy Taylor and Fiona Rettie, helped him save the girl and they were also honoured for their heroism Thursday with Rescue Commendation Awards.

"It took us a couple of tries because she was waterlogged, and plus she couldn’t really move because she was hypothermic," he recalled.

"When I got her in the boat, she was passing in and out of consciousness. I kept giving her a whack every now and then to make sure she didn’t fall asleep."

He put his jacket over her to keep her warm, and they sailed to the shore where emergency crews were already waiting. Once the paramedics took over, he went back to coaching.

Reitberger estimates the teenager was in the water for about five to seven minutes. "When she was in the boat, she was like ‘Can you call my mom?’" he said.

The experience has increased his appreciation for life. "You don’t really appreciate how valuable life is until you sort of come face to face with an experience like that," he said.

"To be honest I have no idea how we got the nomination, I just got an invitation in the mail one day," he said with a chuckle.

Reitenberger is one of 31 Manitobans being honoured Thursday night.

estefania.wujkiw@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 8:25 PM CST: Added month of event.

8:27 PM: Fixed name of awards

8:58 PM: awards name fixed

9:02 PM: Changed headline

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