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2 teenage girls dead, search underway for 3rd missing in southern Alberta river|BCI CANADA


Two teenage girls from a southern Alberta Hutterite colony are dead and another is missing after a swimming and canoeing outing in nearby river Wednesday night.

At around 10:30 p.m., RCMP and EMS crews were called to a drowning in the area of Spring Coulee on the St. Mary River. Spring Coulee is a hamlet located about 50 kilometres south of Lethbridge.

RCMP said Thursday morning that a group of about 10 people went swimming and canoeing earlier Wednesday. At around 7:30 p.m., three female youths "encountered difficulty" while they were trying to get out of the water.

One girl was located and pronounced dead at the scene. Two other girls were swept away, police said. Lethbridge search and rescue crews worked through the night and at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, a second girl was found and pronounced dead.

Senior members of the Spring Valley Hutterite Colony told Global News the two girls whose bodies have been recovered are 17-year-old Linda Waldner and 16-year-old Martha Waldner, and the teen still missing is 17-year-old Naomi Waldner.

Colony members said the girls were strong swimmers, but the river conditions made it difficult to swim at the time. None of them were wearing life jackets, they said.

Naomi is described as five-feet-two-inches tall with long dark hair that would have been in a braid. She was wearing a long green dress with sleeves when she vanished.

The search for her continued Thursday with the assistance of RCMP air services. Community members said search divers were being brought in from Manitoba to help find Naomi's body. It was unclear what organization the divers are with.

Colony members are asking anyone fishing, camping or walking in the area to keep an eye open for her.

— More to come...

— With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News

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