Ontario woman dies in Bahamas due to hurricane Dorian

WATCH ABOVE: Family and friends say Canadian killed by Hurricane Dorian was caring, compassionate woman. Erica Vella reports.

Hours before hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas obliterating entire neighbourhoods, Alishia Sabrina Liolli asked her friends and loved ones on social media to pray for her family and the small island she called home.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified; but the dogs, chickens, husband & children are inside and everything is batted down the best we could!” the 27-year-old Ontario woman wrote on Facebook at 11:42 p.m. on Saturday, just before the full thrust of the storm hit. “I love you all – please pray for our Bahamasland, especially our Abaco. We will keep everyone updated as best we can!”

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On Thursday, Liolli was confirmed to be one of at least 20 people killed during the storm.

Liolli leaves behind her husband and a young son, according to Windsor West MP Brian Masse. “We’re told the son is 15 months of age,” Masse told Global News. “He’s with the father, which is good, and they’re currently residing in a shelter right now.”

WATCH: Hurricane Dorian slams Bahamas, at least 23 dead 

Liolli was recently back in Canada during the summer, Masse said, and had just recently returned to the Bahamas, where she worked.

“The family has indicated an interest to bring home the child and the extended family, and that’s up for them to decide,” Masse added. “The community is doing a remarkable job of coming together to show that we’re all in this together.”

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Tony Lucchino, a longtime friend of Liolli’s family, told Global News that Liolli was the kindest person you’d ever meet.

“She was actually the anchor to this family,” he said. “She would bend backwards to do anything.”

Lucchino said Liolli’s young son, who’s currently in the Bahamas, is Canadian.

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“He was born here,” he said. “They want to get him back here as soon as possible away from all the devastation that’s going on over there.”

Lucchino said he remembers Liolli being back home in Canada over the summer with her son. “They were just so happy together running around and just playing together,” he recalled.

Liolli’s friends and family took to social media to express their shock and sadness at the news.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=108114660570453&id=107429280638991

“Can’t believe this is real … a life taken too soon,” her cousin, Aislinn Liolli, said in a Facebook post. “I lost my best friend, my confidante, my rock, my person. Alishia you were a ray of sunshine, always grateful, would give the shirt off your back to anyone. You made the world a better place.”

Aislinn Liolli said her cousin was “always smiling, always joking, able to make anyone feel better.”

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Liolli lived with her family in Marsh Harbour, a small town on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. She grew up in a small town near Windsor, Ont., said her friend Ryan McKenna.

The two first met at Ryerson University. Liolli, as a residence adviser and slightly older than the incoming first-year students, was the de facto leader of the floor at Pittman Hall, a student residence at the university, McKenna said.

According to Liolli’s Facebook profile, she completed a bachelor of social work at Ryerson University

“I always called her ‘mom,”’ he said. “She was always looking after me, an 18-year-old kid from P.E.I in the big city for the first time.”

READ MORE:
Dorian spins off tornadoes as it travels along Carolina coast

McKenna said Liolli was a motherly figure to other students at Ryerson.

“She was a calming influence and somebody who always tried to encourage unity on our floor,” he said. “She organized the first movie night, got everyone to go out for dinner together. She was always trying to unify the group and she did a great job of it.”

The Autism Service Inc. of Windsor and Essex County said in a Facebook post that Liolli lived in the Bahamas during the school year, where she ran the Starfish Enterprises Vocational Training Center, a program at Every Child Counts, which helps people with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Facebook post, Liolli had returned to Windsor every summer since 2013 to work at the Bruce Awad Summer Program, which supports people with autism.

In Memory of Alishia Liolli All of us at ASI are heart broken about the shocking news that one of our long time Summer…

Posted by Autism Services Inc. of Windsor & Essex County on Thursday, September 5, 2019

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money to bring Liolli’s body back to Canada.

The organizer of the GoFundMe page said Liolli worked at a school in the Bahamas that was destroyed during the storm, and that any extra money raised would be used to help rebuild it.

Global Affairs Canada declined an interview with Global News on Thursday.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the loved ones of the Canadian citizen who has died in the Bahamas in the area affected by hurricane Dorian,” a Global Affairs spokesperson said in an email. “Canadian consular officials are providing assistance to the family at this difficult time. Out of respect for the family, no further information will be released.”

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“Canadians remain gravely concerned by Hurricane Dorian and we express our condolences to all those affected by its devastation,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, and Maryam Monsef, Canada’s international development minister and minister for women and gender equality, in a statement Wednesday.

“Canadian government officials have been deployed to the Bahamas to assess the situation.”

Freeland and Monsef said in the statement that Canada is announcing up to $500,000 in emergency assistance to support humanitarian organizations regarding disaster relief.

WATCH: Death toll reaches 20 on hard-hit Abaco Islands in Bahamas: prime minister

— With files from Daina Goldfinger and Joe Daponte

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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