Sisters Farm Accident: Tragic Farm Accident

Published: October 16, 2015

Sisters Farm Accident: Tragic Farm Accident, Catie, Jana and Dara Bott liked to play ball, camp, fish and go quadding. The sisters did chores on their generational family farm – three blond kids getting dirty as they helped and played.

Now, members of this rural community are mourning at their church, the Withrow Gospel Mission, after the three were killed in a farming incident this week. Catie was 13 years old. Dara and Jana were 11-year-old fraternal twins, although they had separate birthdays – one born just before midnight, the other after.

“Our kids died living life on the farm, it is a family farm,” the Bott family said in a statement released through the RCMP. “We do not regret raising and involving our kids on our farm. It was our life!”

The sisters on Tuesday were “playing on a grain truck loaded with canola when they were buried in the grain,” the RCMP said in a statement. Adults were able to free them and began CPR. Emergency crews continued to perform CPR, but the eldest daughter and one of the twins died at the scene. Their sister was airlifted to a hospital in Edmonton but died at 3:18 a.m. Wednesday.

The girls’ parents, Roger and Bonita Bott, also have a nine-year-old boy named Caleb, said Brian Allan, a pastor at their church.

He said the three girls were very involved in the farm. “They had their feet dirty in soil,” Mr. Allan said.

No one answered the door at their farmhouse Wednesday. Their farmyard is just south of Withrow, which is about 190 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, with sunflowers ready for harvest in the adjacent field. Cattle were grazing across the road. A tire swing hung from a tree over their front lawn.

A Canadian flag was flying at half-mast at the end of a laneway down a gravel road not far from the Botts’ yard. Relatives lowered the flag to honour the girls, another neighbour said. The Botts home-schooled their children for about two years and the children previously attended school in neighbouring Condor, the pastor said.

The RCMP and the Office of the Medical Examiner are investigating the deaths.

Community members gathered at the church Wednesday evening for prayers. The Botts are religious, their pastor said, and help lead the Withrow congregation in singing. Mr. Bott plays guitar and Ms. Bott plays bass.

“The girls had a very real faith and understanding of God,” he said.

Mr. Allan married the couple and last summer watched Jana reel in an 18-pound pike on Winefred Lake on a church outing.

“It was a miserable, windy, rocky day,” Mr. Allan said. “But she was determined to catch the fish.”

There are about 30 homes in this hamlet, but it is surrounded by farms. The area is a mix of cultivated fields and pasture with gentle hills. Residents can see mountains in the west.

In Canada, 123 infants and toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 were killed in farm accidents between 1992 and 2012, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association said. For children between 5 and 9, the toll climbs to 86; and for those between 10 and 14 years old, the total reaches 63, the organization says.

Harvest is a particularly dangerous time of year because so much heavy machinery is needed. It is more than just combines and trucks, both of which have grown in size as grain production expands in Canada. Tractors pulling grain carts, used to hold grain when the trucks cannot keep up with the kernels collecting in combine hoppers, are now common in fields across the Prairies. Tractors are also needed to power the augers that move grain into the bins.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley started crying when she spoke about the Bott children. “I think, like all Albertans, when I heard about this incredibly tragic accident, my heart went out to the family,” she said in the legislature in Edmonton. “My thoughts are very much with them. It is a horrible thing and I think all Albertans share that feeling.”

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