The father of a six-year-old girl who went missing on a cold winter day in eastern Newfoundland is speaking out to defend his child's babysitter.
The barefoot girl wearing only a light dress walked over snow and ice and through a brook in a small town on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula on Tuesday, after leaving her babysitter's home.
Stephen McIntyre told CBC News that the babysitter should not be blamed for what happened.
He said she was putting clothes in a dryer after the six-year-old and three other children became wet while they were playing in the snow. He said his young daughter panicked and bolted out of the babysitter's house when the child couldn't find her.
McIntyre said the girl suffered some cuts and bruises and her feet may have been frostbitten, but she is recovering well.
"She's on the mend," he said Wednesday.
The Heart's Delight girl ended up at the steps of the town hall on Tuesday afternoon, her skin blue from having been exposed to the elements.
"She was so cold, she had a job to speak," fire Chief Wayne Worthman told CBC News on Wednesday.
The town clerk, who found the girl first, brought in a nurse from a public health clinic that was in the same complex, and paramedics from the adjacent fire hall also responded immediately.
The girl was rushed by ambulance to hospital in Carbonear, and is expected to recover fully.
Worthman said the girl travelled about half a kilometre from her babysitter's home, although the track of her footprints show that she went along the main road in the community, through neighbours' backyards and — to the amazement of authorities —across a brook that had open, running water.
"They don't know how in the world she got across there," Worthman said.
"There must have been someone above looking after her, or something, for her to get through that water."
The girl's legs were bare, and her feet had been rubbed raw.
"You can see her little tracks in the snow going up to our town clerk's door. You can see the little spots of blood [on] the snow, where she walked up," he said.
Mayor Denzil Sheppard said the incident has astounded the community.
"It's a miracle this little girl is alive today," he said.
"It [was] a very cold day and we understand that she came over some snow and a little river … Our thoughts and prayers go out to her and also our thoughts go out to the babysitter. "