Sudden bout with flu claims life of young girl who moved from metro to Utah

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Family and friends are grieving, over the death of an 8-year-old girl who grew up in Johnson County. Mackenzie Coyne died last weekend from the flu in Utah, where she had moved with her family.

The family has come home to Kansas to bury their baby. Mackenzie's aunt spoke with FOX 4 Friday.

Three boards covered with photos were set up in the family's living room. Bright eyes, red hair, and a big toothy smile told the story of a little girl family says loved with all she had.

"She was the sweetest girl you could ever imagine," Susan Ratliff, Mackenzie's aunt, said.

The girl grew up in Overland Park but moved to Utah with her family last summer. She started feeling bad on Friday, her eighth birthday. Ratliff said it wasn't anything too concerning.

"Nothing that any parent would do anything about, she wasn't running high fever, she wasn't dehydrated," Ratliff explained.

Then, two days later on Valentine's Day: "She was still kind of under the weather, but nothing crazy until they realized she looks sick, she needs to go to the emergency room, then things progressed very, very quickly," Ratliff continued.

Ratliff said her niece died in a matter of hours. The girl did get a flu shot last fall. Family believes there had to be another factor that contributed to her death.

"Flu is known to have complications and that is what's so bad, and that hit really hard," Ratliff said.

The family says the girl's school and church community have really rallied around the Coynes.

"We want to make the pain go away and we know that we can't," Family friend Kelly Wallace said.

Wallace's daughters grew up across the street from Mackenzie.

"There's never a moment that I don't have a call or a text or an email that says, 'What can I do, give me something to do, because we're so helpless,'" Ratliff said.

A group of friends the Coynes left behind when they moved, but people who remained close despite the distance. Loved ones who say they'll work together through the grief.

"We just have to show that immense love and kindness and just joy that Mackenzie portrayed all the time to everyone because we don't have her to do it anymore," Ratliff said.