EDMONTON — Three children involved in an incident at a family-owned farm near Withrow, Alta. have died.
Sisters Catie, 13, Dara, 11, and Jana, 11, were playing on a truck loaded with canola at a rural property 15 kilometres east of Rocky Mountain House on Tuesday when they were buried by the seed.
Family and friends managed to pull the girls out of the grain and performed CPR until emergency crews arrived, but RCMP said two of the girls were pronounced dead at the scene.
WATCH: An RCMP spokesperson said Wednesday that three children involved in an incident at a family-owned farm near Withrow, Alta. had died.
One of the sisters was airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton Tuesday night in critical condition. On Wednesday, RCMP confirmed she too had died at 3:18 a.m.
“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,” said Sgt. Mike Numan during a news conference.
Emergency crews from Eckville and Rocky Mountain House were called to the rural property in Clearwater County just after 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The area is a very close-knit community and many of the first responders knew the family, including parents Roger and Bonita Bott.
“This hits us all very hard,” said Numan. “Front-line responders are routinely called out to sad situations, but things are always harder when there’s children involved.”
“It’s extremely challenging,” said Fire Chief Cammie Laird with Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services. “It’s all volunteer firefighters in this area so we certainly do know them.”
Parents Roger and Bonita Bott sit with their children Caleb, 9, Catie, 13, Jana, 11 and Dara, 11.
Family issues heartfelt statement
On Wednesday, RCMP released a short statement on behalf of the Bott family:
“Our kids died living life on the farm. It is a family farm. We do not regret raising and involving our kids Catie, aged 13, Dara, aged 11 and Jana, aged 11, on our farm. It was our life.
“Thank you for all the overwhelming support we have received from all of the first responders, neighbours and friends. We would ask media to respect our privacy at this time of grief.”
WATCH: Emotional RCMP spokesperson gets choked up reading statement from family of three Alberta girls
Community struggling to deal with tragic deaths
Wildrose School Division Superintendent Brad Volkman said Wednesday that a crisis management team was at Condor Elementary School to offer support and counsel children who knew the young victims.
“It looks like school as normal, but we know for a lot of kids there’s some sadness today,” said Volkman. “Some kids that knew these kids well are not in school today for obvious reasons.”
In addition, substitute teachers were brought in for teachers who knew the family and needed time to grieve.
The victims attended Condor Elementary School two years ago, but hadn’t been enrolled since then. Despite this, Volkman said they still visited on occasion.
“The family was still a major part of this community and the school. In fact, there were times that they would bring baking over to the school or they would take part in a Christmas concert activity or something like that. They still supported the school and were just a tremendous community-minded family.”
WATCH: Brad Volkman, Superintedent schools for Wildrose School Division talks about how the Condor school is reacting to the tragedy in Withrow, Alberta where three teenaged sisters died after a farming accident.
Premier Rachel Notley fought back tears when asked about the deaths Wednesday. She said her heart goes out to the family.
“My thoughts are very much with them,” she said. “It was a horrible thing.”
WATCH: Premier Notley is overcome with emotion when speaking about the three young girls who lost their lives in a farm incident in central Alberta.
Agriculture Minister offers condolences
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier issued a statement on Wednesday in relation to the deaths.
“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.”
A friend of the family has set up a Bott Family Trust Fund page for the family.
– With files from Tracy Nagai, Sarah Offin and Reid Fiest