By Tim Kalinowski
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
Two teen girls are confirmed dead and one is still missing after a boat they were in overturned in the St. Mary River near Spring Coulee on June 10.
According to the Raymond/Magrath RCMP, the accident happened at about 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The three girls from Spring Valley Hutterite Colony had been out on the river with a group of friends when the boat they were in encountered difficulty. As they were trying to exit the boat, it overturned dumping the three girls and others into the river. One girl was confirmed dead at the scene and another, also deceased, was retrieved by search crews early on the morning of June 11 about 1,000 metres from where she was last seen. The third girl, described as having dark hair and wearing a green Hutterite style dress when she entered the water, was swept away, and was still missing as of last week.
George Waldner said everyone in the colony is in shock.
“Words can’t describe how heavy it is,” Waldner said in an interview on June 11, adding that he did not want to identify the three girls out of respect for their families.
He said Hutterite colonies from other parts of the province and Saskatchewan have arrived to support people who are grieving.
“Everybody is tight in the community,” he said. “Relatives show up and everybody comes together.”
All day Spring Valley Colony members kept a vigil over the point where the missing girl was last seen as neighbouring colonies began to come to offer support.
Dozens stood on the nearby hills or lined the river where the girl was last seen watching the water for traces.
Some colony members helped with the ground search, and two brave young men even entered the water later in the afternoon with harnesses and ropes attached to search the riverbed near where the boat turned over. A colony from Manitoba was also sending a team with under water search capability which was expected to arrive to help last week, according to one source at the scene.
The teens were drifting on the river in aluminum boats that are a little bigger than canoes, Waldner added.
“The river was a little higher, which makes it fun and that’s what young people do,” Waldner said. “But it was a little too aggressive and I don’t think they knew the river was swift like that.”
Local colony members on the scene also confirmed there were originally 12 youths all boating and swimming together in two different canoes before the accident occurred.
RCMP helicopters and aircraft also surveyed the scene though most of the day in hopes of sighting the missing girl along the river. As of press deadline, the girl has not yet been recovered.