WITHROW, Alberta — About 500 coloured helium-filled balloons were released into the air when a small Alberta farming community paid tribute to three young sisters who were smothered last week in a load of canola seed.
Hundreds of people crowded into the Withrow Gospel Mission, west of Red Deer, on Sunday to honour the memories of Catie Bott, who was 13, and her twin 11-year-old siblings, Jana and Dara Bott.
The girls were fatally injured last Tuesday evening on their family farm while playing on a truck loaded with the grain.
Two of them were pronounced dead at the scene, while the third died after being taken to an Edmonton hospital.
They will be buried on Friday at Crossroads Church in Red Deer.
A GoFundMe page created by a family friend for the girls’ parents surpassed its goal of $100,000 in donations in just three days.
For many people in the community, the Bott sisters were considered members of their own extended family.
“We all went to each other’s house after church every Sunday,” said Baillie Burns. “We’d always see each other.”
“We would paint and cook together,” recalled Adelita Studer, Jana’s best friend. “She was just perfect.”
Family friend Dave Brand said the fact the girls are no longer around is tough to comprehend.
“As a community, we’re still reeling,” said Brand. “It’s really difficult to conceptualize what happened.”
Brian Allan, pastor of the mission, said most weeks the girls’ parents, Roger and Bonita, are on the platform leading the singing.
“Everyone feels a connection with them. We all feel the pain as well.”