A 24-year-old woman from Kenya whose drowning death was captured on a livestream video is being remembered as a “superhero” who helped Ontario long-term care homes through the pandemic.
Hellen Nyabuto came to Canada in 2019 as a student, and has worked as a personal support worker since 2020. A close friend of hers, who met Nyabuto while at college, said she had a passion for helping people and was rather outgoing.
“She was lovely,” Alfonce Nyamwaya told CTV News Toronto on the phone. “Hellen was a superhero to us.”
According to Nyamwaya , Nyabuto had just completed a shift at a long-term care home in Chatsworth, Ont. on Aug. 18 and had headed back to the motel where she was staying. She was helping out at the home because they had just dealt with an outbreak of COVID-19, he said.
Nyabuto drowned in the motel pool, located just minutes away from the long-term care home where she worked.
The incident was caught on camera via a Facebook livestream, which Nyabuto had set up beforehand. In a copy of the video posted to TikTok, Nyabuto is seen splashing around in what appears to be a shallow end of the pool. She approaches the camera and smiles before returning to swim some more.
Nyabuto soon becomes hardly visible in the frame as she moves to the other end of the pool. The viewer sees splashing and can hear a faint cry before the water becomes still.
“I watched that video. I cried. It is terrible,” Nyabuto’s father, Nyabuto John Kiyondi, told CNN. “”She communicated with me two days before she perished. She sounded very fine and I was very happy.”
A GoFundMe set up by Nyabuto’s sister says that Hellen was enjoying an afternoon swim when she died.
The crowdfunding campaign describes Nyabuto as being “full of life, with a warm smile and a charming heart.”
“Everyone who met Wendy had their spirits lifted. She was passionate about her work and she touched many hearts.”
In a statement, the director of Country Lane Long-Term Care Home in Chatsworth confirmed that Nyabuto was an employee offering support at the facility for the summer.
“On behalf of everyone at Country Lane who knew and worked alongside her, we offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends for their tragic loss,” Christi Broderick said.
The health-care worker was also the breadwinner of the family and supported not just her parents, Nyamwaya said, but also put multiple students through school back in Kenya. As such, the family is hoping to raise the funds necessary to repatriate Nyabuto’s body back home, something they say will cost at least $50,000.
“She was assisting me financially to educate her siblings, particularly in terms of school fees and other expenses,” her father said. “I’m stuck now and back to square one. I’m wondering how her younger siblings will continue schooling.”
“The family is going through a rough time now. All we want is for her body to be transported back home for burial.”
With files from CNN