BANFF – A 19-year-old woman killed on the train tracks in Banff is being remembered as a “true guardian angel” who “taught everyone around her what true kindness and love was.”
The young woman, who was known as Raven Sillito to her friends in Banff but River Sillito to her family and friends in her hometown of Fort Macleod, was killed on Dec. 29 when struck by a westbound Canadian Pacific container train as she walked westbound on CP’s main line through Banff.
Her family says Sillito was wild, fierce, independent, loved deeply and had the biggest heart.
“She was magic. She was the baby of the family, but she was also the glue in a way,” said her sister Raine Sillito.
“She cared really, really deeply for her friends and her family and I think that one of the things that made her so strong was she wanted everyone to be happy and OK.”
RCMP say it is believed Sillito was wearing ear buds at the time of the incident, which may have contributed to her failing to hear the approaching train along the straight stretch of track.
She was pronounced deceased at the scene, and a RCMP collision reconstructionist was consulted.
"It seems to be a tragic accidental death and we are working with CP police to try to gather some information," said Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr, the detachment commander at Banff RCMP.
"The Transportation Safety Board also has a mandate to investigate the cause of this, and at present, it seems to be a tragedy of somebody being on the tracks being unaware of an oncoming train."
Raine said she has no idea why her sister was on the train tracks, but said she did live close by to the railway line.
“It wasn’t that far away from where she lived and we think she just went for a walk,” she said.
“Walking along the tracks is something she used to do when she lived here (Fort Macleod). She used to walk her dog along the track.”
Originally from Fort Macleod, Sillito moved to Banff last September and worked multiple jobs in that time, including the Lux Cinema, Earls and Lululemon.
She loved music, singing and performing, but her family says her heart lay in being outdoors in nature. She never turned down an opportunity to explore the wilderness, and she carried books wherever she went.
“Nature was her thing. She was most at home and found a lot of joy in mountains and trees and sunsets,” said Raine. “She loved to be outside, she loved to hike, she loved to paddle-board.”
Before moving to Banff, Sillito was working in childcare in Fort Macleod, but Raine said she left to seek new adventures.
“She wanted to try some new things because she wasn’t sure where she wanted to go or what she wanted to do yet,” said Raine.
“She called me a couple of weeks ago and said ‘I think I’ve decided I want to be a writer’. She was really enjoying the people and experiences she was having, and she wanted to start collecting those experiences and writing about them.”
Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said she was extremely saddened by this tragic loss, adding Sillito made a positive impact on the social fabric of the community in a short period of time.
“Banff is in mourning. We need to take time to think of Raven and her family who must be beyond devastated to have lost her in the prime of her life,” DiManno said.
“It’s evident that Raven made so many friends and connections in town and quite quickly, which is a testament to how kind and caring she was, and her infectious spirit for life,” she added.
“Regardless of what CP Rail and local RCMP find in their investigation and examination, this was a devastating loss and I know it will affect many people in town for a long time.”
DiManno encourages Sillito’s friends and coworkers who are having difficulty with this tragic loss to reach out for help.
“Please reach out to either the Town at Town Hall or call 2-1-1 or speak to management at their place of employment, but to please reach out and to know that they aren’t alone in their grief and sadness,” she said.
• A memorial will be held for Sillito at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fort Macleod on Jan. 6 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be followed by a candlelight vigil on the north side of the Mackenzie Bridge in Fort Macleod.