Prayers offered for children as shock turns to painful reality after boat accident

By Ann Zaniewski
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
People enter Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield on Tuesday evening for a prayer vigil for Alex Mansour, 11, and his sister Gabrielle, 6, who were killed in a boating accident Sunday. Another sister, Adriana, 10, is hospitalized in critical condition. / Ann Zaniewski/Detroit Free Press
Nawar Gattah doesn’t know the Mansour family.

Still, he felt compelled to attend a vigil Tuesday at a church in Southfield, where a grieving community continued to mourn two days after a boating accident that killed a young boy and girl and left their sister clinging to life.

“I just want to pray for them,” said Gattah, 25, of Southfield, standing outside Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church. “It’s so sad.”

The Mansour children of West Bloomfield — Alex, 11, Adriana, 10, and Gabrielle, 6 — were on a tube behind a personal watercraft their father was driving Sunday on Sylvan Lake when a boater hit the tube. The person driving the boat and others at the scene helped the children before they were taken to the hospital.

Alex was pronounced dead Sunday. His sister Gabrielle died Monday, according to authorities. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Adriana was in critical condition late Monday at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. Hospital spokesman Bob Ortlieb said Tuesday evening he was waiting for her family to provide an update on her condition, but he believed that it had not changed.

The Rev. Pierre Konja, assistant pastor of Mother of God, said a priest friend who knows the family well told him Tuesday that Adriana is stable.

At least three prayer vigils for the family were held locally Monday, Konja said. A service at St. Thomas Catholic Chaldean Church in West Bloomfield drew several hundred people.

With the initial shock of the tragedy settling into a painful reality, Konja said he urges mourners to turn to their faith.

“We don’t have answers,” he said. “Where do we go from here? We try to find peace in Jesus Christ, and peace in each other.”

Outside the church, just before the vigil began, a woman walked up to seminarian Bardeleon Jaddou, 25, and asked about the Mansour family.

“Just keep praying,” he told her. “That’s all we can do. We can love them through prayer.”

People wearing black and clutching rosary beads filed slowly into the church, dipping their fingers into holy water to bless themselves before settling quietly into pews.

A man opened the service with a reading from the Gospel of Matthew.

He then told the congregation there would be a moment of silence to pray for the repose of the souls of Alex and Gabrielle, and for the healing of Adriana.

“Let us also remember in our prayers the man who was driving the boat,” he said.