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Her Kenyan family is trying to bring her body home after she died in a pool during a live stream

The family of a 24-year-old personal caregiver is trying to raise thousands of dollars to bring her body to Kenya after she drowned last week while live-streaming herself swimming in a pool in southwestern Ontario.

“You can see what happened in the video,” said Alfonce Nyamwaya, a close friend of victim Hellen Wendy.

“It leaves you traumatized.”

Wendy had been working an early shift at a nursing home in Owen Sound, Ontario last Thursday. It was 2pm when she got back to the motel where she was staying.

Shortly after, Wendy went for a swim in the motel’s pool while recording herself via Facebook Live.

She had been in the water for about 10 minutes when the tragedy happened. A video shows her screaming for help, unable to swim at the deep without anyone nearby to save her. Less than a minute later there is silence.

A screenshot from a video recording shows Wendy Hellen moments before she started swimming. (Facebook)

“I can’t tell you how I feel because it’s really hard,” Nyamwaya told CBC Toronto.

“All I can say is that we have lost a truly lovely, hard working, passionate girl.”

According to the video, another hotel guest didn’t find Wendy in the pool until around 5 p.m. and stopped the live stream. Ontario Provincial Police say they were called to the scene just before 5:45 p.m. – nearly four hours after Wendy’s death.

Wendy’s family describes her as “a full of life… with a warm smile and a charming heart.” (Bright Wendy/Facebook)

“One person was pulled from the water and pronounced dead after life-saving efforts were unsuccessful,” said an OPP press release released last Friday.

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

The family needs $50,000 to repatriate her body

Wendy came to Canada from her native Kenya in 2019 and immediately enrolled in college to become a certified PSW.

Wendy had worked in various nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic while also training to become a registered nurse.

“She was someone who really wanted to serve and help people,” said Enock Nyabuto, one of her five younger siblings.

Wendy came to Canada from Kenya in 2019. She immediately enrolled in college to become a certified personal support worker. (Bright Wendy/Facebook)

Nyabuto said his sister pushed him to come to Canada after she got there herself. Through her guidance he also became a certified PSW.

“Hellen was like a role model for us,” he said. “The rest of the siblings, we looked up to her”

While Wendy’s family is still grappling with her loss, she has shifted her efforts to getting her body home to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, at a hefty price tag of $35,000.

Because of this, Nyabuto helped found GoFundMe in hopes of giving Wendy “a good send-off.”

“Your generous contributions to this cause are greatly appreciated as we go through this extreme circumstance of losing a loved one,” reads GoFundMe.

Wendy, right, worked in long-term care homes in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Enock Nyabuto)

As of Tuesday night, more than $15,000 had been raised from donors, many of whom also offered their condolences.

“Wishing you and your family peace and comfort in your grief,” one person wrote.

Though the family is “devastated,” Nyabuto hopes her dead body’s return will bring some sort of closure.

Never swim alone

Wendy’s family says she knew the basic skills of swimming but had no water experience.

One organization says this tragedy is a stark reminder to always swim with someone else.

“Even incredibly strong swimmers should never swim alone because things can happen unexpectedly,” said Barbara Byers, a senior research officer for the Lifesaving Society.

She urges even inexperienced swimmers to wear a life jacket at all times, adding that drowning can happen very quickly if someone puts their head under water.

“Often the reaction is a shock, a gasp. When you gasp, you open your mouth, and when you open your mouth, you take in water,” Byers said.

“Suddenly you are in a very scary situation.”

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