The tight-knit town of Fort MacLeod, Alta., is grieving the loss of one of their youngest community members, after she died in a fiery car crash near Creston this week.
Marty and Janine Vanee were travelling with their three children, ages seven, four and three, in an RV along Highway 3 on Monday morning, when a Saturn SUV crossed the centre line and collided with them head-on. The RV rolled onto its back and caught fire.
The four-year-old, a girl named Emmy, had been sleeping the back and was killed. The driver of the SUV, a 26-year-old man from the Cranbrook area, also died.
Marty remains in hospital, undergoing several surgeries to repair a broken foot, hip, ribs and nose.
Meanwhile, their community has been donating thousands to an online fundraiser in their name that, as of Wednesday morning, has already raised more than $24,000.
“Everyone knows everyone” in the 3,000-person town of Fort MacLeod, Martina Van Hierden said.
“They are very known in the community within the churches and everyone is trying to help out,” she told Black Press Media by phone.
Van Hierden said the Vanees were on their way to meet family at a campground in Castlegar, as part of a road trip to Chilliwack for the wedding of one of Marty’s 13 siblings.
The entire family is heartbroken by the loss of Emmy, she added, describing the girl as a “happy go getter” who was excited about entering Kindergarten in two weeks.
“I have to tell you, Emmy always had a smile on her face and was sweet and happy.”
Marty, born and raised in Fort MacLeod, works with many of his siblings at their father’s construction company, Van Hierden said. The funds raised will give him time to heal from his serious injuries.
Police are continuing to investigate the incident, though evidence suggests the driver of the SUV was returning home after leaving late from the Shambhala Music Festival near Salmo.
Impairment hasn’t been confirmed, but Van Hierden said she hopes others see how much damage it can cause.
“We hope that people wake up and stop doing drinking and doing drugs before driving,” she said, adding that she had gone through a few police roadside checks herself on her way to the Castlegar campground.
She said the family is leaning on their christian faith to get through.
“They’re devastated, but they have their faith in God,” she said. “That’s how they are coping.”