GARDEN HILL FIRST NATION, Man. - It’s an odd question but everyone’s asking Melody Harper: how cold was the water?
The 35-year-old mother plunged into the remote northern Island Lake on June 24 and pulled out two boys who were floating face down in the water.
Three-year-old Erlin Harper was airlifted to Winnipeg but he was released and returned Wednesday to Garden Hill, 980 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
“I got him to shore and that’s when I started giving him mouth to mouth," said Melody, who was on a day off from her clerk job at the Island Lake RCMP detachment.
"I kept at it until finally there was a little bit of water that started coming out of his mouth and nose. I knew it was working and he’d be all right.”
Erlin’s brother Stephan Harper, 4, came to on his own, almost instantly, as soon as Harper and her daughter Kalvina, 12, pulled him ashore.
Harper sensed danger the instant she saw a group of children on a rock by the water’s edge on a Sunday drive around the community.
When one boy fell into the water, Harper sped up to the nearest road and she and her daughter charged through dense bush to reach the rock with the kids.
By the time she and her daughter cleared the bush to the shore, there were two lifeless bodies floating face down in the water. Both kids had wandered away from family members.
As for the temperature of the water, Melody says she can't remember. But it had to be cold, because the lake just broke up in mid-May.
"I didn’t have time to think if it was cold or not,” Harper said. “I knew I had to go in there and save them.”
The boys’ parents said in a phone interview Thursday they are very grateful to Melody and her daughter for rescuing the children.
“I was too scared to say thank you. I’m a shy person,” said the mother, Tammy Harper.
“I said “Thank you” to Melody’s daughter. I keep hugging her and she said, “Don’t cry. He’s alive.”
In addition to the Melody Harper who rescued the two small brothers, there are two other women by the same name in the northern community. Some grateful residents, unsure of which Melody rescued the boys, are thanking all three women.
Cpl. Ryan Merasty, the acting commanding officer of the detachment said he is very proud of Melody.
“She’s not the type of person who can think of doing something like this but the instincts of a mother took over and she knew there was no waiting around."
The RCMP detachment and serves 10,000 people by boat and helicopter in the surrounding mainland First Nations of Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point and Garden Hill and Red Sucker Lake, north of Island Lake.
(Winnipeg Free Press)