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State Rep's Toddler Dies After Being Pulled From Pool

Windham police were informed just after 3:30 a.m.

WINDHAM, NH -- UPDATE 1:24 P.M. In the wake of the apparent drowning death of a local state representative's 3-year-old daughter, friends are doing what they can to help Rick Okerman's family during the grieving process.

Rep. David Bates, also of Windham, said that the Southern N.H. 9-12 Project is combining with the Crossing Life Church to help arrange meals for Okerman and his family members.

Crossing Life is run by Windham resident Shawn Foster.

"It's obviously a horrible tragedy – we're trying to be there for Rick and his family," Bates said. "The Crossing Life Church and the members of our 9-12 group are going to start pitching in. Obviously the kids and family need to continue to be taken care of."

Windham Police were informed at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Monday that Gabriella Okerman died after being pulled from a family pool on Sunday afternoon.

Since learning of Gabriella's death, Bates has spoken directly with Okerman's mother-in-law and House Speaker William O'Brien.

Bates explained that the family is "understandably keeping everyone at a distance right now."

As for the rest of the New Hampshire General Court, Bates said that the incident impacts even those who weren't close with Okerman.

"Obviously Rick wasn't close friends with all 424 members, but we're all part of the same group, the same body, and that is a connection there that makes this much more close to home than just reading about a stranger's tragedy in the paper," Bates said.

Windham Rep. Charlie McMahon and his wife Kim also issued condolences to the Okerman family:

It is with sincere sorrow that we learn of the tragic loss of the Okerman family's beloved daughter, Gabriella. We cannot fathom the pain the family now suffers in bearing this loss but pray they find the strength to withstand this terrible event. Our family stands ready to assist in any way we can to sustain the family through this most difficult of times.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Bruce Breton said that he has known Okerman for eight or nine years with both serving on the town's Planning Board together.

"I'm deeply saddened by the passing away of Rick's daughter," Breton said.

He called Okerman an upstanding citizen who is very family-oriented.

Note: An "Okerman Family Memorial Fund" was established by David Bates on Monday afternoon through Citizens Bank in an effort to help offset funeral costs.

Bates said that people can make contributions by depositing money into the fund at any Citizens Bank location or by sending checks made out to the fund to the Windham location at 115 Indian Rock Road; Windham, NH; 03087.

AN EARLIER STORY FOLLOWS

Windham police have announced that the toddler pulled from a backyard pool in Windham on Sunday has died.

According to a release from Windham Police Capt. Mike Caron, the department was informed of the death just after 3:30 a.m.

that Windham Police and Fire responded to a 3-year-old who had been pulled from a pool. At the time, it was indicated to officials that she had been in the water for about five minutes.

The address, 3 Marblehead Road, is listed as the home of State Representative Richard Okerman, and WMUR has since confirmed with Okerman's grandfather that the girl is his daughter.

The Eagle Tribune identified the daughter this morning as Gabriella Okerman. The paper also reported that she has two siblings – a sister named Michaela and a brother named Nick.

Windham police did not have any additional information on the incident. It remains under investigation by members of the department.

This is the second drowning in Windham in less than a month. was pulled from Canobie Lake in late June and was later pronounced dead.

House Speaker William O'Brien issued this statement on the passing of Representative Okerman's daughter:

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Rep. Rick Okerman’s daughter. Words cannot describe the unspeakable tragedy of losing one’s child and how it forever changes the parents who have been affected. The House of Representatives will keep Rick and his family in our thoughts and prayers at this heartbreaking time for them. As a parent and a grandparent, I can only imagine the pain for them and how much they need our support right now.”

Windham Republican Committee Chair Travis Blais said that he has known Okerman for about five years, and added that their kids are similar in age.

"I see them at the schools, at the Strawberry Festival," Blais said.

Blais called the incident a tragedy that "breaks the heart of all Windham families."

"I know our town will come together as a community to support the Okerman Family in this time of unimaginable distress, Blais added. "Whatever they need, let's please be there."

Salem Rep. Ron Belanger, who serves in Rockingham District 4 with Okerman and all the other Salem and Windham representatives, said he was "devastated" by the news of Okerman's loss.

"No one can imagine what goes through the mind of a mother and father after something like this," said Belanger, who has known Okerman for about six years.

Belanger lauded Okerman as a "very good representative and Republican" for the people of Windham and Salem.

"All of the hearts of the 400 representatives as well as the Senate are with (the Okerman family)," Belanger said.

Windham resident Ken Eyring, who has known Okerman for about two years and worked with him to recently start up the Southern N.H. 9-12 Project in town, said he was "at a loss for words" regarding the news.

"(My family and I) hope that they find a way to get through this difficult time," Eyring said of Okerman and his family.

--

CORRECTION: An earlier edition of this story read that police and fire officials pulled the 3-year-old girl from the pool.

It was supposed to read that she was out of the pool when officials arrived. Police or fire did not indicate who found the girl or pulled her from the pool.

Michael Ryan July 10, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Thank you for your comment Mary, but I would have to disagree. I can't speak for other Patch websites, but on Windham Patch I have always monitored for rude, insensitive or unwarranted remarks. If you can send me examples, I will check on them, determine whether they violate our Terms of Use, and if they do I will delete them right away. Users also have the ability to flag comments that they consider inappropriate, which I can make a final call on.
Dee July 10, 2012 at 02:22 AM
@ Rick... it doesn't say public safety personnel pulled her from the pool. Read it again. @ Mary Smith... do you have thousands and thousands of dollars just laying around these days to put towards a funeral? Sheesh. @ Mary Eberhard... how many stories have you read on the Windham Patch about children passing? THIS patch is edited by Mike Ryan and I say kudos to him for keeping that crap off of here. (Crap that not one of you would have the intestinal fortitude to walk up to these suffering parents and say to their faces I might add.) To the Okermans... I add my sorrow that you have to be subjected to this type of BS.
Michael Ryan July 10, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Hi Dee, I will defend Rick on this one... As I mentioned above... this article DID say safety personnel pulled her, which was an error on my part. He was in the right to be confused. It has since been fixed with a correction listed above.
Dee July 10, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Noted... I was typing while you were responding to him.
Michael Ryan July 10, 2012 at 02:29 AM
OK, no problem.
Dee July 10, 2012 at 02:32 AM
We need an edit button... someday. And I understand why you won't post my response to that earlier post. I was a little heated by callousness of it and just shot off a reply. Probably a good call on your part... I fed into it and it would have added nothing but more negativity.
lita July 10, 2012 at 03:22 AM
What you don't seem to understand is that this is not about commenting on his character. It is about the loss of a child. Please find someone who can explain this simple thing to you, as you seem to be incapable of getting it on your own.
lita July 10, 2012 at 03:28 AM
So many people, in their willful ignorance, cite the fourth amendment where it does not apply. (The government is not censoring anyone here.) Owners of a web site, however, have the right to purge the garbage posted by insensitive, hateful boors any time they wish. Your comment is rife with ignorance--a state in which you sound most comfortable. How sad.
lita July 10, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I am moved by your ability to empathize.
Anne Talley July 10, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Amen Donna!
KR July 10, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Mr. Ryan: it seems very clear to me that you still don't get it. You still seem to erroneously believe that you and you alone are the final arbiter of what does and does not constitute proper commentary. That shocking level of hubris, especially in one just 22 years old, is profoundly disappointing. I have also reviewed Patch's Terms of Service and may I suggest you do so as well. It clearly states the primary concern regards commentary that is: “defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive.” If someone commenting here wishes to address the responsibility of the parents, or elects to reference any other aspect of this tragic situation, especially given that a public servant is involved; that is wholly within their right as an exercise of their First Amendment prerogatives. Any public servant worth his/her salt would acknowledge that, just as any “journalist” worth his salt would already know it. You may edit as the TOS requires. Beyond that, it is neither your job, not your right, to censor beyond it according to your own whims or some arbitrary standard that you alone maintain for what you "deem" should or shouldn’t be said and when. There appears to be much you still need to learn about journalism. But I’ll simply urge you to exercise due restraint and not infringe upon the public’s right to speak its mind - even when you or others may disagree with their commentary. Failing at that, damages the very credibility of this forum and those who sponsor it.
Anne Talley July 10, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Amen Bonnie!
Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 04:22 AM
How cruel to be judging anyone who is going through something so horrible and tragic Obviously you need to reevaluate your own character!!!
Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Wow! So Karen im guessing your "perfect"? I highly doubt it!!! If you do not personally know the situation it would be wise to keep your mouth shut! You sound ignorant making accusations against people when you do not know the WHOLE story! I suggest you read the Enquirer if your into gossip and lies!!
Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Well said Donna!!
Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 04:47 AM
I really think that is none of your business! But i guess you did not read the article correctly, it stats that someone else started it not the Okermans and im pretty sure that is the last thing on their mind right now if they are even aware of it.
Robert July 10, 2012 at 03:09 PM
For those of us who personally know the Okerman family we know that Ella and her siblings were/are loved and well taken care of. This is simply a tragic accident that, only by the grace of God, none of the rest of us are facing today. However, we do not know what tomorrow will bring, so be careful what you say and how you judge this family. We have known the Okermans for a little over two years and just loved Ella Bella - she was a precious little girl with the best smile, twinkle in her big eyes and more energy than some of the adults wished she had:) She always had a smile and a hug to give to her friends. She will be terribly missed. Our love, thoughts and prayers go to everyone in the Okerman family including Grandparents and Great Grandparents.
JMO July 10, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Sending love, prayers, and kind thoughts to a warm, wonderful, and amazing family. To the ignorant people who have judged them unfairly and unjustly I send prayers and thoughts your way as well. Anyone possessing that kind of evil in their heart and soul needs them so much more than the Okermans do. When tragedy decides to land on your shoulders (and it will) perhaps then you will find the compassion and kindness that eludes you at this time. Ella was such a bright light in so many lives. You will be missed little one.
JMO July 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Beautiful Robert, absolutely beautiful.
Katherine Akerman July 10, 2012 at 07:32 PM
My very thoughts as I read some of these cruel comments. Thank you. Kathy, Rick's cousin
Mike Spinelli July 11, 2012 at 04:56 PM
We were their neighbors up until a month ago. We could not be more sad and hearts go out to the okermans.
Dan Love July 12, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Rob, How dare you question the character of Mr. Okerman, who willingly and voluntarily gave of himself to serve the people of Windham and Salem. I am sure your post called into question your own character. Why dont you try some self examination, a moral inventory of yourself, admit your faults and make restitution for the harms you and your character have caused others
Dan Love July 12, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I am a personal friend of the Okerman's, having heard about some of these posts at Ella's mercy meal, I had to log in and check them out. The answer to your questions are YES there is a gate and fence around the above ground pool. To give a pool safety lecture at this point shows your shallowness. Rick and Jessica Okerman are all about keeping their children safe
Dan Love July 12, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Karen you are a heatless, cold hearted individual. The Okerman's are a kind and loving family. They are not negligent people, nor are they neglectful of their children. I hope, for your sake, that you are never involved in any situation even remotely close to this
Dan Love July 12, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Heidi, you are someone who cant understand normal thinking. You obviously do not have children who sometimes go out of the view of the parents.
Dan Love July 12, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Well said Robert.
Dan Love July 12, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Having just returned from the funeral of Gabriella "Ella" Okerman, I continue to pray for RIck & Jessica Okerman, their children and family. Those who have posted derrogitory comments ought to be ashamed of themselves. It was suggested to the Okerman's that they not even read any of the articles and postings on this site. May God have mercy on us all
Daniel Knisell July 12, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Let all judgements be water off your back. More importantly may little Ella walk with the stars so our family can find her when they too embrace the heavens. Much Love.
Kellie July 13, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Karen, it is too bad that you do not have enough sense to keep your insenstive comments to yourself. I'm sure the family feels guilty enough without the ignorance of others adding their 2 cents. What's horrifying is that you clearly have a negative perpective on every aspect of life and in a time like this instead of having the utmost sympathy for this family to have to endure this unthinkable tragedy for the rest of their lives you are filled with these despicable thoughts and then have the audacity to post them. I feel sorry for your lack of empathy and hope in the future you will learn to control your negative thoughts and try and focus more on the positive aspects of life.
Ken Eyring July 15, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Thank you Michael for your common sense and decency.

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