WINNIPEG -- A homeless Winnipeg man risked his life to save a teenager from the Red River on Sunday afternoon.
Faron Hall, 44, who lives on the banks of the Red in St. Boniface, said he saw the male teen fall from the Provencher Bridge above where he was sitting with friend Wayne Spence. Hall said the teen appeared to jump.
"He was saying, 'It's cold! Help me!' and I just threw off my backpack and ran down and dived in," said Hall, who is originally from Dakota Tipi First Nation but mostly grew up in foster care in Winnipeg.
Hall said he managed to get a grip of the teen about 30 metres from the bank but was afraid both would be swept away by the rapid, cold waters.
"He was fighting me and I told him, 'Don't fight me! I'm trying to save you. Otherwise we're both going to drown'," Hall said. "He was pushing me under and I had to slap him in the head. I hated to do it, but I said, 'I'll bring us to shore. Just trust me.' He went limp and I got him to the grass."
Hall said his friend Spence helped pull the exhausted and freezing Hall and the teen out.
"The firefighters said to me, 'You're a hero, you saved a life'." Hall said. "I said, 'Well, possibly, but can I get a blanket? I'm kind of cold.' "
Hall downplayed the hero tag.
"I don't think I'm a hero. I'm just a human being," he said yesterday.
Hall was transported to St. Boniface General Hospital -- along with the teen, whose condition is unknown -- where he warmed up for several hours before being released. Before leaving the hospital, he visited the teen he pulled from the river.
"I just asked him, 'Why?' That's all I said to him," Hall said. "He just said he was sorry."
Hall said he'd like to see the teen and his family in the future.
"I'm not ever going to forget what I saw," Hall said of the incident. "That boy's got his whole life ahead of him."
Hall is no stranger to tragedy. His sister Kristi Hall, 36, was stabbed to death in a random attack in July 2007 in the North End.
"Maybe that's why I didn't want to let anyone else die," he said of the river rescue.
Hall, who has been homeless for about seven years, said he spent Sunday night at the Main Street Project shelter on Martha Street but sleeps year-round along the banks of the Red near the rescue spot, where he said he plans to continue living.
"I just do my own thing," Hall said. "I don't bother anybody."
After graduating high school, Hall said he worked as a teacher's aide while studying education at the University of Manitoba for two years before his life took a turn for the worse.
"That's when I hit alcoholism," Hall said. "I've had so many pitfalls in my life."
Hall said he last worked on construction jobs in Saskatchewan before returning to Winnipeg about 10 years ago.