A close-knit community is in mourning after the loss of a little girl Tuesday in a tragic drowning incident.
Kezia Joy Waldner, aged 31/2, drowned in a small pond near her home in the hamlet of Kane, a rural southern Manitoba community.
The RCMP and volunteer firefighters had responded to the hamlet, located about an hour southwest of Winnipeg, at about 1:30 p.m., on a call that a young child was unresponsive after being pulled from the water.
She was rushed to hospital in Morris, about 25 kilometres away, but efforts to save her were unsuccessful and she died.
Pastor Patrick Waldner of Kane Church, where the family worships, said Kezia was the second youngest of seven children of James and Evelyn Waldner. He and the family are not related.
"They are our neighbours, our children are best friends and we are very close to them," said Waldner. He said his own five-year-old daughter had sometimes played with Kezia.
"It's been a shock for everyone."
Waldner said the two families have been neighbours for about eight years.
He said the pond is partially iced over but has open water and is located on his neighbour's property. He said he was at work when the incident happened but was told Kezia and some of her siblings were playing outside when she was noticed missing.
"Everyone else (the other children) was accounted for and they were frantically looking for her," he said.
Waldner said the Kane Church membership, about 25 families, is leaning on its faith and rallying around Kezia's family.
"We come from a community-based background and some of us are ex-Hutterites, so we believe in being close together and helping one another and all those things. It's how we grew up and it really shines through at a time like this," Paster Waldner said.
"I'm very encouraged about how James and Evelyn and the rest of the siblings are letting the Lord lead them through this. Waves of sorrow hit a person, you break down, you cry through it and that's a good thing to do. We need to do that to let those things out. You recover yourself and you remind yourself again that she is in heaven with the Lord Jesus. We have that promise and we have that hope and we have that foundation and there's nothing that can shake that. To have that assurance and that hope is absolutely a foundation for the family at this time. That is what is going to take them through. It's the grace of God."
Waldner said the wake will be held today at 7 p.m. and the funeral will be Friday at 2 p.m. Both ceremonies will be held at Kane Church.
"If anyone does want to help the family financially or with the arrangements, there will be an offering box at the funeral," he said.
Waldner said he has talked to his own six children, aged 11 and under, about the dangers posed by ice and open water.
"I took them there last evening. I walked down with my three older boys, and I showed them the pond and I explained to them the dangers of water and we prayed there and asked the Lord to watch over the family at this time and give them grace," he said.
The RCMP reminds the public of the increased danger ditches, ponds and rivers present to children with the spring thaw.
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