It takes a special person to see a life in danger and go out of his way to make a difference.
But that’s exactly what East St. Paul resident Kole Devisscher did in December when he braved the thin ice of the Red River to save 10-year-old Ralph Chartrand Jr. from drowning.
On March 1, the young man was honoured for his bravery by Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joy Smith.
Smith presented him with a certificate of commendation and said she will be nominating Devisscher for the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery.
Describing the incident, Devisscher said he initially saw a blue jacket in the river and thought it was something floating by. Fortunately for Chartrand, the teenager decided to back up his truck and take another look.
When Devisscher realized that somebody was struggling in the frigid water, he leapt into action.
"I got out of the truck and grabbed the tow strap out of the backseat and tried to get him to grab on," explained Devisscher, a 16-year-old River East Collegiate student.
"He couldn’t quite grab onto the rope because his hands were already turning blue. Then I made a loop on the hook and got him to put it around his shoulders."
Devisscher’s dad, Gerry, says he’s glad this son remembered some of the lessons he learned while snowmobiling over the years.
"It’s good that he was listening. He just couldn’t ignore it, he wanted to help," Gerry said.
"At the time I was nervous he went out there, I gave him heck, but I’m happy and proud of him for saving a life."
There was another young boy on the ice that day, Chartrand’s brother Nathaniel Thorassie, but Devisscher unfortunately didn’t see him.
To honour Kole’s efforts and to thank him for saving her son, McLaine Flett, the mother of the two boys, gave Devisscher Nathaniel’s eagle feather.
Devisscher’s mom Denise said the whole situation didn’t hit her at first.
"When he called and said he saved someone, it didn’t sink in at first. Today’s the first time I’ve heard the whole story," she said
"It’s just amazing that a young man like Kole stopped... He got him out of the river and he calmed him," MP Smith said at the commendation presentation.
"I think he is an outstanding young man, and all of Canada should be proud of what he’s done."
Devisscher said he just hopes that others would do the same.
"It feels good, not everybody gets this award, and not everybody gets nominated for the Governor General’s award. It’s pretty awesome," said Devisscher.
"I hope someone else would do that for me if I was in the same situation."