Three Alta. girls smothered in truckload of canola

(File photo courtesy Canola Council of Canada)

Two 11-year-old girls and a 13-year-old girl have died after being smothered in a truckload of canola on a farm in western Alberta, according to RCMP and local media.

Rocky Mountain House RCMP said late Tuesday they were called at about 6:15 that evening to a farm near Withrow, about 60 km west of Red Deer, where three girls had been playing on a loaded grain truck.

The girls “became buried and were smothered by the seed in the truck,” then were removed from the truck by adults on the scene, RCMP said in a release.

Members of the nearby Condor, Leslieville and Clearwater County fire departments, ambulance staff from Eckville and Rocky Mountain House and RCMP attempted life-saving measures “at length,” RCMP said.

Two of the girls, an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, died, while another 11-year-old girl was taken to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital by STARS air ambulance in critical condition, RCMP said Tuesday night.

Several Calgary media outlets on Wednesday morning quoted RCMP as saying the third girl has since died in hospital.

Rocky Mountain House RCMP said Tuesday night they will not release any of the victims’ names.

A victims’ services unit is assisting the family, RCMP said Tuesday night, adding in a separate release Wednesday morning that the local Wildrose School Division is arranging support for staff and students.

CBC on Wednesday quoted a local official as saying the truck was being unloaded when the girls entered the canola, but CTV on Wednesday quoted a separate official as saying the truck was being filled with grain at the time.

According to fact sheets from the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, a person can become engulfed and trapped in flowing grain as it exerts a “tremendous pull” on a body caught in the flow, rendering a person helpless in as few as three seconds and fully buried in 20 seconds or less.

If it’s being unloaded, grain can create “quicksand-like” suction as it flows down and inward in a funnel effect, CASA said. A person engulfed at waist level or higher can’t be pulled from flowing grain without risk of injury to the spine.

Provincial Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier, in a separate release Wednesday, said his “heart aches for (the girls’ family) today. As a father myself, I believe no parent should have to bear the loss of a child.

“I join Albertans in expressing grief and sympathy for the parents of these girls as they go through this unimaginable sorrow.” — Network


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