Hundreds light candles to remember 5-year-old lost in Wisconsin River

Vigil remembering Angela Girton

Around 300 mourners filled Gotham’s park with candle light Saturday night as they remembered 5-year-old Angela Girton, who is presumed to have drowned Monday night after falling into the Wisconsin River.

“Words cannot express how we feel about her being taken so soon,” Angela’s cousin and event organizer, Tara Mellum, said from behind a podium, speaking directly to the many grief-stricken who showed up to support the family.

Tears could be seen on the heartbroken faces of those grieving, who outnumbered Gotham’s population of 191 residents, standing alongside Angela’s family. Many also wore pink ribbons with characters from Angela’s favorite movie, “Frozen.”

“Her cousin made them,” Mellum said. “They called each other Elsa and Ana. And our ribbons will stay in our family forever.”

The family also played an original song that, in part, talked about Angela dancing in the sky and singing with angels. One lyric went, “I bet it’s nice in Heaven since you arrived.”

“We just want everybody to know we’re here and we’re thankful for everything everybody’s doing,” Angela’s cousin and fellow event organizer, Heather West, said.

“And also let Angela know that she has so many people that miss her. And love her. And that we’re pulling for her,” Mellum said.

Richland County officials said that with a babysitter’s permission, Angela and three other children left that babysitter’s house and traveled down to the Wisconsin River to have a picnic on Monday. At some point Angela reportedly fell in the water and her sibling and another child were unsuccessful when they linked arms and tried to reach her with a stick.

At the vigil, however, there was no talk of blame. Instead, Girton’s family insisted the ceremony, which lasted about 15 minutes, be about remembering Angela.

“Right now we’re focusing on Angela,” Mellum said. “We’ll have the questions come later.”

There was also a big message of thanks to those who continue working toward recovering Angela’s body.

“All of the people that continue to go in day in and day out until she’s found — we haven’t got the chance to meet them, see them. And we just want the chance to thank them too,” Mellum said.

Angela’s family said closure will not come until her body is found.

The Madison Police Department’s cadaver dog team and a search plane joined Richland County’s recovery search effort Saturday. Richland County officials had said if they were unsuccessful Saturday at finding her body, they would reevaluate their next steps.