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Rescue boat searches Marthasville pond

A rescue boat searches a pond in Marthasville on July 13, 2019, where a 7-year-old girl drowned. Photo courtesy of the Metro West Fire Protection District.

A 7-year-old girl who drowned after a car she was riding in went into a pond near Marthasville has been identified as Safa Alkhirafi, of Chesterfield.

About 4:45 p.m. Saturday, rescuers responded to the pond off Orchard Lane in Warren County for a submerged vehicle that held a mother and her three children, authorities said. Two of the children made it to shore with help from rescuers.

Reem Alkhirafi, 30, mother of the children, was driving. Her vision was obscured by dust from the gravel road, causing the car to leave the roadway, according to a Missouri Department of Public Safety report. She was taken to a hospital in serious condition.

Jeff Backhaus, chief of the Marthasville Volunteer Fire Department, said a group of his emergency responders arrived within a few minutes of the call. They’d been suited up at the station to go to a tractor-pull event nearby.

“It’s heartbreaking when you pull up and you have people in the water, and everyone is screaming that there are people trapped in the car yet,” he said.

He said firefighters felt helpless that they couldn’t do more to help. A dive team later found the car, a 2004 Kia Spectra, in about 15 feet of water.

Adil Imdad, head of social services at the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, said more than 200 people attended a prayer service for Safa on Sunday afternoon. She was buried at Lakewood Park Cemetery, in south St. Louis County.

“She was a very beautiful child,” he said. “She was 7 years and four months old. The mom accidentally drove the car into the lake. Then she tried to save everybody and herself. She was able to save two kids. She could just not save this child. The car submerged.”

He said Safa was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and her parents were from a village in Yemen. He said the family moved from New York to Chesterfield about five years ago to be in a safer environment and have better opportunities. He said the father works at a convenience store in the Spanish Lake area.

He said Safa’s mother was still unconscious Sunday evening at a hospital and didn’t know that her child had died. He said the girl’s body was washed and viewed by other family before burial.

He said the girl’s father had cried and kissed her forehead.

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