A 4-year-old boy who died at his Auckland daycare on Friday has been described as a "little angel" at a prayer service held in his memory today.
Bouquets lined the front of an altar as the family and friends of Aldrich Viju gathered for the service at Ellerslie Catholic Church this morning.
Aldrich died in what has been described as a tragic accident at Angels Childcare Centre in Takapuna on Friday afternoon.
Family and friends gathered outside the church before the service, some crying and clasping their hands in prayer. There was sombre chanting in Malayalam as people packed into the full church, many gathering at the back without seats. About 300 people attended the memorial service.
The boy's parents were visibly upset as his small casket was carried inside the church, his father one of the pall-bearers.
The family are members of the Auckland Malayali Samajam community, and the majority of the service was said in Malayalam.
However, the priest began in English. "We all have pain in our hearts," he said.
The priest described the 4-year-old as "our little angel".
"The angel is in the hands of God now. We don't understand why, but God does."
Aldrich's father, Viju Vareed, was sobbing inconsolably at the start of the service, and was escorted out for a period of time.
Family spokesman Joseph Devasia said Vareed had spoken in Malayalam, saying he did not want anyone to see his son like this.
"I want to see only his smiling face," he translated.
Vareed "hasn't accepted it at all, he is in denial, Devasia said, of the man's grief.
The boy's family are due to fly home to India tomorrow, where they will stay for a few months. They are originally from the town of Kochi, in Kerala, India.
Aldrich's body will be flown to India on Wednesday.
Friends have been with the family at their home in Takapuna since the incident happened on Friday.
It is not yet known how the child died, but Devasia said his father dropped him off at daycare at about 1.30pm on his way to work at a factory in Henderson.
"He got called before he reached work at about 2pm," he said.
Aldrich's mother, who is a nurse, was working a shift at North Shore Hospital when the incident happened.
The boy had started attending Angels Childcare Centre a few months ago and went there three days a week, Devasia said.
The young boy's parents wanted him to go to a bigger daycare centre to get "more socialisation" before he started school in March next year.
The family were still in the dark about the exact details of what happened on Friday afternoon, Devasia said. But he plans to meet with workers at the childcare centre tomorrow.
However, the family were aware that the young boy was playing outside on playground equipment when the incident happened.
The young family "love" living in New Zealand, Devasia said.
The family's neighbour has given a eulogy explaining how his children used to play with Aldrich and his sister, Andrea.
"His life was short but during his short stay on this earth he had demonstrated his love.
"He had an enchanting smile."
The neighbour said Andrea misses playing games with her big brother. "We know that you're an angel and are in a better place now. We say goodbye to you. You will always be living in our hearts, thoughts and memories."
Mourners in the church were invited to come forward and prayer over Aldrich's open casket.
A large group of men, women and their young children have moved towards the altar,
some with flowers.
His open casket will be at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Ellerslie until about 1.30pm today.