A young boy was rescued from Wascana Creek in Regina on Thursday after leaving a group home run by the YWCA.
Gwelda Hales, 69, said she was in her yard Thursday afternoon, cleaning up debris from the storm that shook Regina two nights before, when she was approached by a woman.
The woman was searching for a young, non-verbal boy with autism who had run off in the area, and who liked running and water, Hales said.
Hales hopped on her bike and rode around a section of Wascana Creek, which cuts through A.E. Wilson Park near her home, searching for him.
It wasn't until she was on her way back to her house that something caught her eye.
"I happened to glance into the water and I thought, 'What is that … is that a duck, is that a log?'" she told Stefani Langenegger on CBC's The Morning Edition.
"I ran toward the water and I looked out and I saw a young boy's face floating up in the water."
Hales yelled for help and got the attention of a passerby, who waited on the bank as she swam into the water.
"I heard him gurgle. I heard a sound from him and I thought, 'My god, this little boy is alive,'" she said.
When she touched the boy's shirt, he wrapped his arms around her. She brought the boy in with help from the man on the shore.
They laid the boy on his side while the man called emergency services. Hales said that when the ambulance arrived, EMTs told her that it might have been the boy's diaper that kept him afloat in the creek, as it had filled with air.
"He was breathing, and he survived. They said his vitals were good," Hales said.
LISTEN | Gwelda Hales spoke with host Stefani Langenegger on The Morning Edition
Despite her key role in the rescue, Hales emphasized it was a team effort. Other people she and her husband met as they searched did their best to help as well.
"The people who were looking for him, who had been frantically looking, were all around. And it was just a very happy ending," she said.
"I'm just glad that this little boy is OK."
Investigation into incident
The YWCA said the boy is doing well and has been cleared by doctors. It did not confirm his age, or if he has autism.
"The child wandered away from his caregiver and within minutes, caregivers and community members starting looking for him," YWCA Regina CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen said in an email.
Coomber-Bendtsen said he was missing for about 20 minutes before Hales found him in the creek, and was not injured during that time he was gone.
When asked if staff would be reviewed or penalized for the incident, or if protocols would be altered, Coomber-Bendtsen said the organization was investigating to determine if any changes are necessary.
The Regina Police Service, which attended along other emergency services, couldn't specify the child's condition but confirmed that he would recover.
Police have referred the incident to the provincial Ministry of Social Services, as required by law.
"It is everyone's duty in law to report any incident involving a young child and safety, so it's part of our process then to notify social services," said RPS spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich.
"It's up to them to make an assessment as to whether there's some further action required."