Chase Martens' family 'heartbroken,' but thankful for community support
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, March 27, 2016 1:08PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 7:55PM EDT
The family of a Manitoba toddler who was found dead this weekend are "completely heartbroken" by his death, but are thankful for the support they have received from the community.
The body of two-year-old Chase Martens was found in a rural creek about 500 metres south of his family's home in Austin, Man., on Saturday afternoon.
A statement sent to CTV News on behalf of the boy’s family expressed their anguish over the death of their son.
"The family of Chase Martens is completely devastated as they come to grips with the tragic loss of their little boy," said the statement from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
Chase was last seen playing outside his home on Tuesday night. His disappearance prompted a massive search that involved hundreds of people on foot, horseback, ATVs and in helicopters.
In the statement, his family thanked the volunteers and authorities for their help in the search.
"They would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to the RCMP, Manitoba Fire Commissioner and the caring and generous community volunteers who searched around the clock in the search for Chase," the statement said.
"While they are completely heartbroken, they have been overwhelmed by the love and kindness our community has shown their family."
The RCMP said Saturday that Chase's body was found by a group of search and rescue volunteers from Winnipeg.
Authorities said there were no obvious signs of foul play, and it appeared as though Chase walked off his front yard.
An autopsy was scheduled to be performed on Sunday.
A vigil was also held for the toddler outside the family's home on Sunday, and roses were laid in the spot where Chase's body was found.
Henry Peters, a pastor at the Austin Evangelic Fellowship, said the community has rallied behind Chase's family.
"Well, I believe the community really came out and showed their support, their concern, their love for the family," said Peters.
Austin resident Henry Driedger said Chase’s disappearance and death struck a chord with locals, and they will continue to support his family.
"They won't be forgotten, not by the community here, or by Canada," said Driedger.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV Winnipeg's Meghan Roberts