Pink tributes to girl who died in river plunge
Around 200 mourners gathered today for the funeral of a five-year-old girl who died after becoming trapped in a car which plunged into an icy cold river.
The 40-minute service at a church in Worcester comes more than three weeks after Gabrielle Grady died in hospital following the incident in Evesham, Worcestershire.
Gabrielle, known as Gabby, died at Birmingham Children's Hospital on February 14, three days after being pulled from the submerged car in the River Avon.
Her six-year-old brother Ryan, who was also in the vehicle and was rescued by police divers, sobbed outside the Church of St Barnabas in Rainbow Hill when he saw his sister's coffin.
The congregation, made up of close relatives and friends of the primary school pupil, all wore items of pink clothing at the request of Gabrielle's mother Kim Smith and sang the hymn All Things Bright And Beautiful. The men wore pink ties and two horses which pulled a carriage carrying Gabrielle's white coffin wore plumes of pink feathers.
Floral tributes included pink lilies and a wreath which spelled "sister". Inside the church, pink balloons were tied to the pew ends and a poem written by Gabrielle's six siblings was placed on the altar in a pink frame in front of a single pink candle.
The poem included the verse: "Look down on us from the heavens above, surrounded in true joy and love, we'll be together forever and never apart, for you, our sister, are always in our heart".
In a statement released by the Diocese of Worcester after the service, Gabrielle's mother said: "I would like to take a moment to say a personal thank you to everyone who has opened their hearts to my beautiful angel Gabrielle.
"Heart-felt thanks to the people of Evesham, all rescue services, police and hospital staff."
Speaking of the police officers who jumped into the river and pulled Ryan to safety, she said: "A special thank you to my heroes Phil Stayte and Sean Kent for saving my little man."
Miss Smith, who wore a black suit with a bright pink top and scarf, added: "The biggest thank you goes to my family for being there for me."
Inspector Sean Kent was present at the funeral.
During the service tributes to Gabrielle were read by her mother and her aunts, Mary Harding, Maria Wise and Jane Hatch.
The congregation listened silently to some of the five-year-old's favourite music before lighting a number of candles in her memory.
The Rev Peter Haddleton, vicar of the Church of St Barnabas, said: "I know that Kim and the family have been deeply touched by how the people of Evesham have taken them to their hearts over these dark and difficult days, but they wanted to return to their own roots in Rainbow Hill and at St Barnabas for this very personal service for Gabby, and to commit her to God's peace and protection.
"On behalf of the church family here, I want to extend our love and our prayers to them, too.
"May the love of so many continue to uphold them, and may they also find consolation in the Easter Promise that love is stronger than any evil, and stronger even than death."
The funeral was followed by a private burial service.
The family requested that donations in Gabrielle's memory be made to Birmingham Children's Hospital.
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