Walkerton pauses to bury first E. coli victim

People in a small Ontario town buried the first of five victims of the bacterial epidemic that has led to a police investigation and class-action lawsuits.

Lenore Al, 66, was laid to rest Friday after a sombre ceremony at Sacred Heart Church.

The retired librarian was one of five people who died a few days ago after drinking water contaminated with E. coli.

Eleven children remain in a London hospital. Four of them are in the pediatric critical care unit on dialysis equipment. Three adults are also being treated.

Hundreds of Walkerton residents have become sick from the water, which investigators think may have been tainted by cattle manure after a severe rain storm.

Despite the sickness, fear, grief, and anger in the community, about 150 of the town's 5,000 residents turned out for Al's funeral.

Rev. Paul Reilly said more would have attended but they were forced to stay home to care for the sick, who are suffering from bloody diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and fever. Others wanted to avoid the army of media now swooping through the town, he added.

Al was remembered as a loving wife, mother, and grandmother who had recently quit working to spend more time with her family.

Her husband of almost half a century, John, wept in the arms of his young granddaughters during the service.

The mourners, who are steeling themselves for more funerals and the possibility of more deaths, sang the hymn Be Not Afraid.

"We speak to God as a community," Rev. Reilly told the crowd, "especially in these difficult times to share a life, to share faith, to support one another."