A devastated family in central Alberta doesn't regret raising their children on a farm, despite the death of their three daughters, who were buried under canola seed while playing on the back of a truck.
RCMP identified the girls as Catie, 13, and 11-year-old twins Dara, and Jana. They're the daughters of Roger and Bonita Bott.
- Withrow farm deaths show dangers of playing around grain
- Farms can't be glamorized as play areas, safety expert says
A visibly emotional RCMP Sgt. Mike Numan read a statement from the family Wednesday morning.
"Our kids died living life on the farm," he read at a news conference in Rocky Mountain House. "It is a family farm. We do not regret raising and involving our kids … it was our life."
According to RCMP, the girls were buried and smothered by the seed at a family farm near Withrow on Tuesday evening. They had been on the back of a grain truck.
"The girls were with their parents, and while the truck was being unloaded they somehow fell into the canola seed," said Ivan Dijkstra, deputy fire chief with Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Service.
Adults at the scene pulled the girls out. Emergency responders tried to resuscitate the girls using CPR and oxygen therapy for two hours but the 13-year-old and one of the 11-year-old twins died at the scene.
"Canola seed is a very small grain and it gets into your lungs and stops the oxygen transfer," Dijkstra said.
The third injured sister was taken to Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton. She died at 3:18 a.m. MT Wednesday.
'That's what farm kids do'
Fred Bott, Roger's first cousin, said the Bott family is a tightly knit group and well established in the local farming community.
"There's just no words that you can say," said Fred Bott in a telephone interview from Kamloops where he lives. "This is something that happens to somebody else, you hear about it on the news, and you say 'jeepers' that poor family."
Fred Bott said he was invited to the Bott farm often while growing up in Rocky Mountain House, Alta.
He said many might question why the children weren't more closely monitored on the farm.
"Anytime we went to visit, you were always out playing out in the haystacks, playing in the barn loft, playing in the grain. That's what farm kids do."
Pastor Brian Allan of the Withrow Gospel Mission was close friends with the family. He said the family was involved with the church and the girls were part of youth and children's groups.
He was with the Botts last night as they struggled to cope with their loss.
"It's one of those things where you reel backwards," he said. "There's disbelief and shock."
Allan said six farmers with combines are heading to the Botts' farm today to finish the harvesting on their land.