Searchers spent Sunday combing the Assiniboine River for the body of an 11-year-old girl who is presumed to have drowned after she went missing while swimming with friends.


Becky Waldner was playing on a tire tube along the Assiniboine River on Saturday evening when she went underwater, according to family members. (Family photo)

RCMP say the girl disappeared in the river near the Poplar Point Hutterite Colony, just east of Portage la Prairie, Man., on Saturday evening.

Family members told CBC News the girl, Becky Waldner, was playing on the riverbank with two female friends on Saturday to escape the summer heat.

Family members said Becky was playing on a tire tube when she went underwater.

"A group of youngsters had been swimming in the Assiniboine River. One of them had become distressed and slipped under the water," RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert said Sunday.

"She had been in the water or on a floatation device, I can't confirm exactly, but she had become distressed and gone into the water and apparently was not a strong swimmer," he added.

"One of her friends attempted to assist, but was unsuccessful."

Police and local emergency crews were called to the river at around 8 p.m. CT Saturday. They searched in the area all night but could not locate the girl.

Strong current

On Sunday, RCMP and colony members searched in and around the river, in rainy and muddy conditions, for the girl's body. Police divers used sonar equipment to help with their search efforts.

"I'm told that there's significant current, so that certainly will be something that they'll have to contend with," Hiebert said.

Poplar Point, Man.

People in the Poplar Point Hutterite Colony, which has approximately 100 members, rallied together on Sunday amid the shock and sadness they have been feeling over what happened.

Becky's uncle, Amos Waldner, described his young niece as a "happy type of girl."

"I don't remember ever seeing her grumpy or something like that," he told reporters. "She was just like a little girl is."

A number of men from the colony searched near the river on Sunday, as about a dozen women watched nearby.

Waldner said Becky's family is coping with the tragedy as best as possible. The girl has two sisters and two brothers, and the family lives in the colony, according to members.

At least one woman in the tight-knit community said it is common for children to go swimming in the river, but she said the current has been higher than usual lately.

Waldner said colony members have been discouraging children from going into the river.

"It's dangerous," he said. "We kind of don't allow them to do that. But I guess the weather got the better of them."

Hiebert said given the extremely hot weather in recent days, more people are likely going into waterways to cool down.

Saturday's incident is an unfortunate reminder of the dangers of water, he added.

With files from the CBC's Kiran Dhillon