Vigil Held for 5-Year-Old Matilda Ortiz Who Died in the Stanislaus River

KNIGHTS FERRY -- With heavy hearts and lyrics hinting at heaven, Matilda Ortiz' parents sent doves soaring into the air - soaring like they believe their daughter's spirit did after she lost her life in the Stanislaus River.

"She was always smiling...always.. no matter what. She was just always so happy and loving," said Marissa Vasquez, Matilda's mother.

That's what Vasquez says she'll always remember about her beautiful 5-year-old.

The little girl was spending time at the river with her father Sunday when she slipped on some rocks at the Knights Ferry recreation area and fell into a river swollen to dangerous levels by repeat rain storms.

Search teams were dogged in their efforts, but to no avail.

Hopes for a rescued Matilda became a made peace with a recovered Matilda Wednesday afternoon.

Still, her family finds comfort in all that was done.

"It's so crazy how something so bad could bring so many loving people around and show us how much of a heart there really is out there," said Vasquez.

The heart of the community in and surrounding Oakdale offered prayer for Matilda at Friday's vigil.

"It just touched by heart and I felt like I needed to be here to just do something," said Oakdale's Amelia Blom.

She and others turned their prayers to Matilda's father, Roberto Ortiz,  as he passed out - overcome by emotion -  remembering his baby girl just a few feet from where he last saw her alive.

"It's been hard. It's been hard for them. They've been trying to analyze the whole situation it's been hard. That's why they kind of been wanting to have space," said Matilda's aunt, Melissa Naranjo-Ortiz.

Once he was feeling stronger, Roberto Ortiz and Vasquez stepped into that difficult space at the river's edge - the place where their lives changed forever.

They floated flowers in the waters that claimed their child, replacing something ugly with something beautiful.

Services for little Matilda have been set for Wednesday, March 27th, at Sacred Heart Church in Patterson at 10 a.m.

Google Map for coordinates 37.819650 by -120.672149.

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