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The Nation

February 28, 2011

Infant boy the first NZ quake victim laid to rest

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — The baby boy who is the youngest known victim of New Zealand's earthquake disaster was its first laid to rest, given a farewell Monday by grieving relatives who clutched stuffed toys and draped his tiny coffin in a comforter.

Baxtor Gowland, 5 months old, was sleeping in his home in the southern city of Christchurch when he was killed by masonry shaken loose by the quake that hit with sudden and brutal force last Tuesday, the family told The Associated Press. He died in a hospital.

Authorities have named just eight victims of the disaster — Gowland and another infant among them — and say they are struggling to identify many of the 140 other bodies pulled from the rubble because of the extent of their injuries.

Dozens of Gowland's family and friends, most wearing baby-blue ribbons pinned to their mourning black, gathered at a small chapel. A slideshow of the smiling infant's photographs flashed on a screen as Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel" echoed throughout the room.

After the ceremony, the tiny white casket, bearing a wreath of white flowers and draped at one end in a light-blue comforter, was carried by a single pallbearer to a waiting car. His mother watched, clutching a dark blue stuffed toy.

"Bax you are forever in our hearts we will always love you xo," the boy's father Shaun McKenna wrote on a Facebook tribute page, under a photo he uploaded of his son. "To The little man who made everyone smile who met him, may you look down upon us and help us remember your beautiful face."

Peter Croft, the child's great-uncle, read a statement to the AP thanking people from New Zealand and around the world for their support but asking for privacy during the funeral.

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