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A Winnipeg man who went missing from the Dauphin Countryfest over the weekend was found dead in a creek near the festival grounds Tuesday night, the RCMP confirmed Wednesday.

An autopsy is being performed, and the investigation is ongoing.

Danny Berhie Kidane, 24, went missing at Countryfest in Dauphin Saturday afternoon.</p>

Danny Berhie Kidane, 24, went missing at Countryfest in Dauphin Saturday afternoon.

Danny Berhie Kidane, 24, was reported missing by friends on Sunday morning after he didn't return to the campsite on Saturday. Kidane, a graduate of St. Maurice School and a student at the University of Manitoba, had his photo flashed on the festival's mainstage twice Sunday, and his photo was shown at the gates as attendees left the grounds once the event had ended.

Kidane had last been seen in the shallow creek just outside the festival grounds, leaving his cellphone and wallet behind.

On Monday, a coordinated search effort began, with 50 people and a K-9 unit from Brandon on the scene. A small plane and helicopter were also deployed. Ground crews located Kidane's body the next day. Ann Ransom, the festival's president, said it was the first time the RCMP's search and rescue unit was called to the site. Countryfest declined further comment when reached Wednesday by the Free Press.

RCMP spokesman Paul Manaigre said festival-goers often set up lawn chairs in the creek, which normally is only about a foot deep at most. However, when it rains, as it did in Dauphin, the depth increases significantly. "Six inches of water can become four feet," Manaigre said.

The RCMP doesn't think Kidane had been beaten or injured in any way prior to his disappearance, and Manaigre doesn't suspect foul play, although that can't be ruled out yet. "It could be a drowning," he added.

On social media, Kidane's older brother, Haben, wrote that Tuesday was "officially the worst day of my life," adding, "I lost my guardian angel, my rock, my little brother."

"He was really an outstanding human being"

Kidane's death has been a shock to his family, co-workers and friends, including St. Maurice's class of 2012.

On Tuesday, after hearing of his death, most of Kidane's graduating class gathered at a former classmate's home to remember their friend and to help each other deal with the grief.

"He would have wanted all of us to celebrate him and to celebrate our connection with each other, said Amanda Fontes, who called Kidane a close friend.

"It was amazing to see everybody come together at the drop of a hat for Danny," she said. "He would've done that for us."

Fontes recalls Kidane as an "outstanding human being" who would often get so caught up telling stories and listening to people tell their own that he'd show up an hour late to gatherings.

Kidane was "always moving," Fontes said. "Usually, he was running because he felt like he was late for something," she added.

Darius Maharaj Hunter was two grades behind Kidane, but their lockers weren't too far apart. "Compared to others, I knew him very little, but he still managed to make a genuine, heartfelt impact on me," he said. "When we ran into each other, he had the talent of making it feel like we were still in high school and a few lockers down."

For a few years, Kidane worked in the deli department at Dakota Family Foods, where Jordan Morgan remembers Kidane being a magnetic presence. "He had a spark to him," said Morgan.

More recently, Kidane worked at the Frito Lay warehouse in Winnipeg.

Fontes said Kidane was interested in everything, and was still figuring out his path. "I think that's the saddest part," she said.

Kidane's former classmates gathered for hours Tuesday recounting their favourite stories about him.

"I don't know if he realized how many people he impacted, not in a superficial way, but in a real, meaningful way," she said. "We're going to miss him so much."

-with files from Ryan Thorpe

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @benjwaldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
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Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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