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Family ‘lost and distraught’ in wake of outdoor death in The Pas

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When three The Pas RCMP officers knocked on the door, no one in the house was prepared for the tragic news they brought.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2022 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When three The Pas RCMP officers knocked on the door, no one in the house was prepared for the tragic news they brought.

That’s why Ashley Kematch’s 10-year-old son Adrian was still in the room when officers told the 31-year-old woman’s grandmother and grandfather of her death, outside in snow and cold, on a sub-arctic night reaching -37.6 C.

“My dad said never in a million years did we think the police are coming to tell us that,” said April Kematch (aunt of Ashley Kematch).

Ashley Kematch with her son Adrian. (Supplied)

That his great-grandson heard the news that way, in words unsoftened by familial love, haunts Donnie Kematch, April said Thursday. He couldn’t have known what was to come, but seeing the boy begin to comprehend the news and become “lost and distraught and crushed” sent him into shock, April added.

Police located Kematch’s body Monday morning, outside a residence in The Pas.

RCMP said it was likely hypothermia played a role, but that won’t be confirmed until the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performs an autopsy. Results may take several months.

The family is meanwhile left to mourn.

“She filled the room with love and light. She didn’t even have to try — there was just something about her,” April said Thursday.

“She was a very kind person. Very respectful, and she had tons of friends,” Flora Kematch said of her granddaughter. “She struggled quite a bit in her life, but she never gave up.”

Kematch lost her mother, and that took a toll on her, Flora said. But she went back to school, finished Grade 12 and became an early childhood educator.

“She was very happy with her job, because she loves kids.”

Prior to her death, Kematch had been at a house in The Pas, after attending the final day of the Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival. She was seen with an “unknown male,” according to an RCMP news release.

On Thursday, RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel said the man had been located, but would not provide further details. The man was not arrested; the RCMP does not suspect any criminal wrongdoing.

Still, the family wants to know why Kematch was left alone in such dangerous temperatures.

As much of the trappers festival is held outdoors, Kematch was dressed for cold weather. However, it would take much more than a standard parka, tuque and mitts to keep a person safe through a full night well-below -30 C.

Ashley Kematch with her son Adrian. Kematch died of exposure outside in The Pas. (Supplied)

“You’d need to have clothing for climbing Mount Everest,” said University of Manitoba Prof. Gordon Giesbrecht, a physiologist who studies the effects of cold on the body.

The stages of hypothermia can set in quickly. First, shivering starts, goosebumps rise on the skin and hands become numb.

“Never accept numbness,” Giesbrecht said, as hypothermia can become much more dangerous soon after.

Extremities may turn blue and skin pale, but even more dangerous is the loss of muscle function and confusion. Difficulties thinking and moving can make it much harder to get to a safe space.

If a person can’t get somewhere safe and body temperature drops below 32 C, shivering will stop but it will be a struggle to think, walk or speak. As body temperature drops below 30 C, hypothermia becomes potentially fatal.

Kematch was the first of two Manitobans in recent days to die of suspected exposure. The body of a man was found in a Winnipeg Transit shelter Tuesday, amid -30 C temperatures and wind chill hitting -43 C.

Kematch’s family is planning a vigil in her honour. Since her death, relatives have regularly made the nearly three-hour drive from Grand Rapids to support each other, said April. “Family is everything.”

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Thursday, February 24, 2022 5:07 PM CST: Adds new photos

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