Rocky Mountain House | AFE — A community in central Alberta is in mourning following the deaths of three young sisters in a grain truck mishap on Tuesday night.
“This is hitting us all very hard. Frontline responders are routinely called out to sad situations, but things are always harder when there’s children involved,” said Sgt. Mike Numan of the Rocky Mountain House RCMP.
Catie Bott, age 13, and her twin sisters Dara and Jana, both 11, were playing on a grain truck being loaded at their farm near Withrow, about 60 km west of Red Deer, when they became buried in canola, Numan said.
Details of exactly what happened weren’t released, but flowing grain is extremely dangerous because it exerts a “tremendous pull,” according to the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association. A person can become engulfed and rendered helpless in as few as three seconds and fully buried in 20 seconds or less.
“Adults at the farm were able to free the children from the grain and immediately began CPR,” said Numan. “A short time later, the emergency medical services personnel arrived and continued CPR.
“Despite their efforts, they were not successful in reviving the 13-year-old and her 11-year-old sister, who both died at the scene. Their 11-year-old sister was taken to the hospital in Edmonton via STARS air ambulance, and succumbed to her injuries at 3:18 this morning.”
The Bott family — father Roger, mother Bonita, and surviving son Caleb — was too distressed to speak following the accident, but said in a statement they have no regrets about raising their children on the farm.
“Our kids died living life on the farm. It is a family farm, and we do not regret raising and involving our kids on our farm. It was our life,” said the Bott family’s statement.
Numan choked back tears as he read the statement.
“The RCMP expresses its deepest condolences to the family and the local community, and is committed to providing them with the victim services support they may require in the aftermath of these sudden deaths,” he said.
Provincial Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier also expressed condolences to the family.
“My thoughts are with the family of the three girls who died in the Hamlet of Withrow and my heart aches for them today. As a father myself, I believe no parent should have to bear the loss of a child,” he said in a statement.
“I join Albertans in expressing grief and sympathy for the parents of these girls as they go through this unimaginable sorrow.”
A crisis management team is at the elementary school in nearby Condor — which the girls attended up until two years ago — offering grief counselling to students and staff during this “very confusing and difficult time,” Wildrose School Division superintendent Brad Volkman said.
“This, of course, is a very sad time for the staff, the students, the families, and the community connected with Condor School,” said Volkman, adding the family remained “very much connected” to the school.
“In a small, tight-knit community like Condor, they are known well by our staff and our students. The family still supported the school in tremendous ways, taking part in attending Christmas concerts and bringing baking for the staff and students.
“They will be sorely missed.”
— Jennifer Blair is a reporter for Alberta Farmer Express at Red Deer, Alta. Follow her at @FairfieldJen on Twitter.