The tragic deaths of three sisters on their family farm in Withrow, Alberta, located 15 kilometres east of Rocky Mountain House, is being felt across the agricultural community and the country.
RCMP say they were called to the farm at around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday following reports of the youth being trapped in grain.
Officers say the children were playing on a truck loaded with canola when they were buried by the seed. The three were pulled from the grain by three adults at which time they began to perform CPR. Emergency crews arrived on scene and continued CPR until STARS Air Ambulance arrived.
Two of the girls were pronounced dead at the scene, while the third was flown to hospital where she too passed away.
The loss of the three young girls is being felt across Clearwater County, where the community is rallying around the family. Neighbours are reportedly finishing the harvest for them, while a trust fund has been set-up to support Roger and Bonita Bott and their son, Caleb, 9, at the Eckville and District Savings Credit Union. For more information and to donate, click here. There has also been a GoFundMe page set up for more information and to donate click here.
On Wednesday, the Bott family issued a statement:
“Our kids died living life on the farm,” the Bott family said in a statement released Wednesday by RCMP. “We do not regret raising and involving our kids, Catie, 13, Dara, 11, and Jana. 11, on our farm. It was our life.”
Emergency responders are also said to have struggled with the incident, one RCMP officer choked up as he delivered an update on the situation to the media Wednesday afternoon.
“This is hitting all of us very hard,” said Rocky Mountain House RCMP Sgt. Mike Numan. “Frontline responders are routinely called out to sad situations, but things are always harder for everyone when kids are involved.”
The loss of the three young girls is also being felt at the provincial level.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Premier Rachel Notley held back tears as she said her heart goes out to the family.
“My thoughts are very much with them,” she said. “It was a horrible thing.”
Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier also issued a statement:
“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.”
“I join Albertans in expressing grief and sympathy for the parents of these girls as they go through this unimaginable sorrow.”
Luree Williamson, CEO of Agriculture For Life, which delivers farm safety programming, which includes farm safety days, across the province, says their hearts and prayers go out to the family, friends and community involved in this tragic incident.
“There’s no words that can express the devastation and the loss that has occurred to the family and to the agricultural community overall,” says Williamson.
Williamson says tragedies like this remind us all about the importance of farm safety.
“It is so important to continually remind children, youth and adults about farm safety and the importance of having the Farm Safe Plan put in to place and understanding the hazards that can occur on, in and around the farm.”