YARMOUTH, N.S. — The four-year-old girl who died in a tragic accident at a Christmas parade is being remembered as a child who "loved helping other people" and had a passion for learning.
MaCali Cormier died Saturday night after she fell under the wheels of a float during the annual Parade of Lights in Yarmouth, N.S.
Her obituary, posted on the H.M. Huskilson's funeral home website, said Cormier was a pre-primary student at Yarmouth Central School and "couldn't wait" to go to the new school that is being built across the street.
It said she also loved swimming, camping, horseback riding, dancing, and watching YouTube videos.
"MaCali will be remembered as an awesome big sister to Tessa and Matthew Cormier," read the obituary. "Most of all, MaCali will be remembered as a little girl who loved helping other people."
She is survived by her parents, all of her grandparents, three of her maternal great-grandparents, and a number of aunts, uncles and cousins.
"The family wishes to thank the first responders ... as well as the many bystanders who were there to help," the obituary says.
A spokesperson at Huskilson's said the funeral home has chosen to absorb funeral costs. Instead, donations can be made through the funeral home to a trust fund for Cormier's younger siblings.
"The family is struggling enough without the added burden of having to pay funeral expenses, so we're just another member of the community that's trying to help them out," the employee said in a brief interview.
A vigil was to be held Monday evening at Frost Park, which is close to the town's waterfront, to pay tribute to the young girl whose death has devastated the community.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said more than 40 people showed up at a downtown hotel on Sunday to receive grief counselling.
"There were a lot of tears," Mood said Monday. "It was raw, emotional. I've never experienced anything like that. People were just very open, and it was a safe place to be."
Mood said she knows the girl's family, but had yet to speak to them.
"It's unimaginable what they are going through," she said.
Grief counsellors were to be dispatched to area schools on Tuesday, when students return from a previously scheduled day off, Mood said.
"The most important part is that people all grieve differently, and we need to respect that in each other," Mood said. "And it's not just emotional. It's a physical reaction to tragedy."
In a statement, the Tri-County Regional Centre for Education said it had implemented its crisis management plan.
"Regional staff will be working with schools to assess the needs of our students and staff over the coming days," the statement said. "Members of our crisis management team will be in schools on Tuesday morning to provide support for our staff and students."
Local resident Vance Webb, who witnessed the tragedy, said there was "mayhem" once people on the street realized what had happened.
"People within 50 feet of it — none of us are OK," he said. "All the adults were crying. Everywhere I saw, there were hundreds of people crying."
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dal Hutchinson said Monday police will be taking statements from witnesses, the person driving the float and the girl's parents.
"This was an extremely traumatic event that was witnessed by so many people, including children, who were present to enjoy a family event," Hutchinson said in an email. "We encourage people to seek professional help to manage their emotions after having witnessed such a tragic incident."
Hutchinson confirmed police had seized the vehicle and float to conduct mechanical inspections.
"It's too early in the investigation to speculate what charges, if any, are warranted," he said.