Candles were lit near a stormwater pond in Morinville this weekend, surrounded by stuffed toys and flowers. A little girl named Jade drowned there Saturday. She would have been three in November.
Her father, who preferred not to give his name in order to preserve his family’s privacy in this time of intense grief, stood in his front yard Monday. He was outside, picking up his children’s bicycles, often pausing to look across the street at the park behind his neighbours’ homes. The pond is only a short walk downhill from there.
Jade was his first girl, sister to four older brothers and now a baby girl, he said. Though she was still learning her words, everyone had a lot to say about her. At church and in the neighbourhood people often told stories of how loving she was. She just “took care of everyone,” he said.
“Just caring and wanting to see other people happy,” he said. “Even though she couldn’t really talk, you can tell by the expression on her face. She had a smile for you.”
On Saturday morning, before she was reported missing, she had played with her siblings at the park in The Lakes subdivision. An RCMP officer found her shortly after, unresponsive in the waters of the nearby pond, and carried her to shore. Neighbours and emergency workers tried to bring her back to life but she died at the scene.
One time, Jade walked up to a woman living across the street, hugged her, and gave her a kiss, her father said. That same woman, a retired nurse, desperately tried to bring her back to life on Saturday, before emergency services arrived. Another neighbour, an off-duty Edmonton firefighter, and a doctor visiting the town, also tried to resuscitate the toddler.
Her father didn’t really know yet how to thank everyone that wanted to save his daughter that day – the neighbours, the paramedics, and the police. The town, meanwhile, has come together to help the family.
A Facebook group, the Morinville Marvelous Moms, started the Morinville Angel Ribbon Campaign. On Monday evening, they wrapped pink and black ribbons around street posts and trees.
The family’s church had a month’s worth of food donated for the family by residents. The Father’s House Church is now collecting cash donations to help with funeral costs, counselling and family support. Donations can be dropped off at the church.
On Monday, the town said it organized a session with a critical incident stress management team for those who tried to save the girl. The session included members from the Morinville fire department, Alberta Health Services, off-duty Edmonton fire department members, STARS air ambulance attendants and victim services.
The town will also join the ribbon campaign.
“Our community has suffered a loss,” said Felicity Bergman, a spokeswoman for the town. “The current focus is on the family, the first responders and others affected by this loss. … Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and everyone affected.”
Morinville RCMP and the Edmonton Medical Examiner’s Office continue to investigate the little girl’s death. Her death came less than 24 hours after a boy drowned in a lake in Auburn Bay, a community in southeast Calgary. Some neighbours in Morinville now ask that the town put fences around its ponds.
The park near the pond, meanwhile, remains quiet. Only a few parents brought out their children to its playground on Monday. It’s even quieter down the street.
“I woke up yesterday morning. I have six kids. It’s a loud house. It’s never quiet,” Jade’s father said. “Somebody is always screaming. Except for her. That music tone, it’s gone now.”