The southern Ontario community, where the remains of a young girl were found in a river earlier this week, are “in shock and seeking information on how such a thing could happen,” said the deputy mayor of Haldimand County on Thursday.
Bernie Corbett told CBC Hamilton he has ‘many unanswered questions’ as he awaits more information from the OPP on the identity of the girl, believed to be between one and four years old , and how she ended up in the Grand River. .
Emergency crews were called to the river in Dunnville, Ont., Tuesday afternoon after the human remains were discovered, according to OPP Const. Marie Gagliardi.
Maggie Cole, 27, manager of the Queens Merritt Room, a restaurant near the shore where police were searching this week in the town of 12,000, called the discovery “very sad news”.
“Dunnville is a very small town, so when something like this happens, that’s about all we can talk about,” Cole said.
Dunnville is about 55 kilometers southeast of Hamilton, near where the Grand River meets Lake Erie.
Police said Wednesday the remains appeared to have been in the water for some time and they did not believe there was a threat to public safety. The Haldimand County OPP, Ontario Coroner’s Office and OPP Forensic Identification Service are investigating the circumstances of the death.
Earlier in the week, members of the OPP Search and Recovery Unit could be seen in the area, with officers on a boat, on the shore and in the water combing the river. Officers assisting in the search from shore held what appeared to be a taut rope across the waterway.
Wasyl Luczkiw, 28, whose family owns the Grand River marina and cafe, said police initially used the business property as a staging area and used one of its boats to search before to bring his own. The marina is across the river from Queens Merritt Room on an island in the river.
“They usually launch at the provincial park when patrolling the water, but I think the docks weren’t there so they came here,” he said. “It’s quite surprising, shocking and sad to hear that someone has lost a loved one. I hope they can find the solution.”
Cole said police entered his restaurant on Thursday to ask him for security footage from the river.
“Throughout the day I saw cops driving around,” she told CBC Hamilton on Thursday. “There was a helicopter yesterday that flew over the river to Cayuga.”
The Grand River stretches from the Dufferin Highlands, north of Guelph, to Lake Erie, stretching approximately 310 kilometers in total.
An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday in Toronto. The OPP has not yet released any results or other information.
Police have set up a hotline linked to the discovery. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-844-677-9403. Callers who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.helpsolvecrime.com.
“This is a young child who will be missed by someone,” said the OPP Det. Inspector. Shawn Glassford in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.