Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Body retrieved from creek

Believed to be teen seen struggling with current a day earlier

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A mystery ended in tragedy Wednesday afternoon when Winnipeg police divers pulled a body of a young man from the swollen Sturgeon Creek.

Police said late Wednesday night they had identified the body and would release his identity Thursday.

Flood Fight

The discovery of the body in the creek at about 3 p.m. Wednesday came almost 24 hours after the first report of a young teen struggling in the swift-moving creek in Woodhaven Park, south of Portage Avenue and west of Moray Street.

The only eyewitness, Jamie Gural, said he had been drinking with friends nearby when he saw a young teen in the creek on the north side of the Woodhaven Bridge and jumped into the water. But Gural said he had to return to dry ground because the creek's current was too strong.

A group of senior high school students, who had been in the park collecting water samples for a class project, said they saw a hat and red backpack in the water but never saw the boy.

Gural said he last saw the boy, a teen between the ages of 16 and 17, face down and floating towards the Assiniboine River.

Police and firefighters responded immediately. Using rubber dinghies, they searched the creek inside the park until 5 p.m. They returned Wednesday morning with the dive unit.

The mystery was heightened when police said they had not received any reports of a missing person. With only one eyewitness, some speculated the whole incident might have been a hoax.

Police said divers were in recovery mode, but had not confirmed there was a drowning.

"We are not 100 per cent certain that someone did go under the water... but certainly, we're not going to be taking anything to chance," Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen told the media early Wednesday.

At 2:50 p.m., police released copies of two photographs found inside the red backpack -- two tall, slim black men, one who appeared to be in his mid-to-late 20s and the other in his late teens or early 20s. Police asked anyone who knew their identity to contact them immediately.

They also released a description of the teen seen in the creek the day before: A boy of 16 or 17 years, with a dark complexion, short black hair and wearing a red jacket.

At 3:40 p.m., police said members of the dive unit had recovered a body from the creek at 3 p.m.

The identity of the deceased could not be confirmed as the youth seen in water the day before.

At 4:20 p.m., Winnipeg police issued another release, this time requesting the media not to publish the photographs that had been distributed earlier that afternoon, and said efforts were being made to identify the individual. Those two photographs were still available on the Winnipeg Police Service website at 7:20 p.m.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2011 A3

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