ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — A north St. Louis County community paid tribute to a 12-year-old girl killed in the weekend’s flash flooding.
“I don’t even know. I’m lost. I don’t know what to say,” said Bridgette Carter.
Bridgette’s daughter, Aaleya Carter, died on Saturday after their car was swept up by floodwaters. Bridgette and three of her children were inside a car traveling eastbound on Interstate 70 near the Airflight entrance ramp. In an attempt to turn and avoid the flooded road, they were swept right into a drain culvert.
All but Aaleya made it out of the car safely. She was found dead in Coldwater Creek near McDonnell Blvd, where the storm drain lets out.
On Sunday, Bridgette and other family and friends came back to the same spot where they found her daughter. This time, it was to honor her life with a balloon release. The balloons were pink and silver. Bridgette tells News 4 those were her daughter’s favorite colors.
“She loved her momma beyond measures,” said Tracey Dean, Aaleya’s aunt. “So it’s going to be hard. It’s hard not only for her but her siblings and her family. So, we just want everybody to pray.”
Sunday’s memorial was also an opportunity for the family to express their gratitude for all the volunteers who took their time to help in the search for Aaleya.
“We go out and help with anything,” said Chief Andre Henderson.
Henderson is with the Child Abduction Criminal Task Force, which is an all-volunteer group of first responders that typically works on child abduction cases. However, when Henderson learned about Aaleya’s disappearance during the storm, he says CACTF assembled to help law enforcement and the family find answers. They were among the first to locate her body.
“I get down there and one of our team members is carrying her off of the tree, and we ended up rendering CPR to her for at least 15 to 20 minutes until EMS responded,” said firefighter Terrion Barfield.
Dean says it’s this kind of support from the community that has brought them strength through tragedy.
“We just want everybody to know how we appreciate them coming out to help in the search for Aaleya,” Dean said.