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Hellen Wendy’s family raise Sh5 million to repatriate her remains to Kenya for burial

The family of 24-year-old Hellen Wendy Nyabuto who drowned in a pool in Ontario, Canada while live-streaming her swimming session on Facebook has raised at least Sh5.1 million (55,000 Canadian dollars) to bring her remains back home for burial.

Wendy as she was popularly known, was enjoying an afternoon swim last Thursday when she tragically drowned about 10 minutes into the live video. Her phone continued to record for over three hours.

The family was targeting to raise 50,000 Canadian dollars (Sh4.6 million), according to a GoFundMe page created to collect contributions from well-wishers.

“We are soliciting your generous donation to repatriate her body to Nairobi, Kenya as per the wishes of our family. The cost to repatriate the body is approximately $50,000,” reads a message on the page.

Wendy’s sibling, Enock Nyabuto, said on a verified GoFundMe page that she was “full of life” and had a “warm smile and a charming heart.”

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Enock Nyabuto said everyone who met Hellen Nyabuto “had their spirits lifted,” adding, “She was passionate about her work and she touched many hearts.”

Wendy who hailed from Mesesi Village home in Bomachoge Chache, Kisii County, relocated to Canada in December 2019 after securing a 10-year study visa via a lottery program.

She lived with her younger brother Enock in an apartment in Toronto and worked part-time as a health worker in Collingwood while studying nursing.

“She has been in Canada for about three years. All the financial responsibilities (of their family in Kenya) were on her,” he added. 

Her father Nyabuto John Kiyondi, a smallholder farmer, told CNN that he cried when he watched the video of his first-born daughter drowning.

“She communicated with me two days before she perished. She sounded very fine and I was very happy. She promised me a phone. I didn’t feel anything abnormal,” he said.

“She was assisting me financially to educate her siblings, particularly in terms of school fees and other expenses. I’m stuck now and back to square one. I’m wondering how her younger siblings will continue schooling.”

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All he wants is his daughter’s body returned to Kenya for burial in line with their tradition.

“According to our tradition, one is supposed to be buried where he or she was born. I’ll not feel comfortable, psychologically, if my daughter is buried away from Kenya,” he said.

In the video, Wendy smiles at the camera before she goes for a swim in the shallow end. About three minutes into the video, she moves to the deep end of the pool.

The video shows her screaming for help, unable to swim in the deep end with nobody around to rescue her. Less than a minute later, there is silence.

According to the video, it wasn’t until around 5 pm that another hotel guest found Wendy in the pool and stopped the live stream. 

Ontario Provincial Police say they were called to the scene just before 5:45 pm, almost four hours after Wendy died. 

“An individual was removed from the water and pronounced deceased after life-saving measures were unsuccessful,” the Ontario Provincial Police said.

Police say they were aware that a video of the incident had surfaced on social media, adding that “appropriate steps are being taken to have it removed.”

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