Three children watched helplessly as their parents and another family member were swept away by a waterfall in west-central Alberta on Tuesday.
The incident took place at Crescent Falls, a provincial recreation area west of Nordegg in the foothills. (View photos of the Crescent Falls area at the bottom of this article.)
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by and involved in this tragic incident,” Cpl. Ryan Hack of the Rocky Mountain House RCMP said in a news release.
“We also offer our thanks to the citizens, and partner agencies, who immediately jumped into action to provide assistance in the face of these powerful falls.”
Police said officers from the Rocky Mountain House detachment along with members of the Clearwater Regional Fire Services and Rocky Mountain House Search and Rescue responded to a rescue request at Crescent Falls on Tuesday night, sometime before 8 p.m.
Cpl. Laurel Scott, an RCMP media relations officer, said six members of the same family — five of whom lived together — were at the falls when one of the adults went swimming at the bottom of the falls.
“The first person got swept up in the undercurrent at the base of the falls and he didn’t come out,” Scott said. “The second person made an effort to rescue that first person, (and then) the second person didn’t come out. The third adult went to try and rescue the first two and that third adult didn’t come out.”
Scott said two of the three people in the water were the parents of three children watching from the shore. The third adult in the water was a male relative. Two of the three adults were 38 years old and the other was 25.
“Three children — aged 10, six and three — who remained on the bank, yelled for assistance,” police said in a news release.
Police said other people at the scene jumped into action and were able to recover two adult bodies but they were unable to resuscitate them.
“We want to thank those civilians,” Scott said.
The third adult was not found and rescue operations had to be suspended on Tuesday night, police said. Rescue efforts resumed Wednesday and the third adult was found at about 2:30 p.m.
Police said the children at the scene were taken to a safe location on Tuesday night and have since been connected with other family members.
“The children were transported to a safe location with the assistance of the Victim Services Unit. They have since been connected with other family members.”
The RCMP said an investigation into what happened is ongoing.
On its website Wednesday, Alberta Parks said Crescent Falls is “closed until further notice to allow response to an emergency situation.”
“This is a terrible incident,” Scott said. “We express our condolences to the family, to the children, everybody affected by this.
“We have unfortunately seen too many drownings in this province this summer.
“We always encourage people to be so aware of their surroundings and in this case at Crescent Falls, it was… not a safe place for people to be in swimming.”
Crescent Falls is located about 330 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about water safety.
View photos of the Crescent Falls area below.