‘It’s still surreal’: Authorities look for cause of deadly Alberta glacier bus crash

RCMP Sgt. Rick Bidaisee, Jasper Detachment Commander, speaks to the media about three passengers who were killed when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled over at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshRCMP Sgt. Rick Bidaisee, Jasper Detachment Commander, speaks to the media about three passengers who were killed when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled over at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP work on the scene of a sightseeing bus rollover at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. Three people were killed and more than a dozen others were critically injured when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled at one of the most popular attractions in the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefield. RCMP said the rollover happened early Saturday afternoon. Pictures posted online by people at the scene showed one of the attraction’s big-wheeled ice explorers on its roof down a moraine embankment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshRCMP work on the scene of a sightseeing bus rollover at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. Three people were killed and more than a dozen others were critically injured when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled at one of the most popular attractions in the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefield. RCMP said the rollover happened early Saturday afternoon. Pictures posted online by people at the scene showed one of the attraction’s big-wheeled ice explorers on its roof down a moraine embankment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Tourists take photos at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. Three people were killed and more than a dozen others were critically injured when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled at one of the most popular attractions in the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefield. RCMP said the rollover happened early Saturday afternoon. Pictures posted online by people at the scene showed one of the attraction’s big-wheeled ice explorers on its roof down a moraine embankment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshTourists take photos at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. Three people were killed and more than a dozen others were critically injured when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled at one of the most popular attractions in the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefield. RCMP said the rollover happened early Saturday afternoon. Pictures posted online by people at the scene showed one of the attraction’s big-wheeled ice explorers on its roof down a moraine embankment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Stuart Back, vice president of operations with Pursuit, speaks to the media after three passengers were killed when a glacier sightseeing bus operated by the company rolled over at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshStuart Back, vice president of operations with Pursuit, speaks to the media after three passengers were killed when a glacier sightseeing bus operated by the company rolled over at the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Angela Bye couldn’t believe her eyes Saturday when she used the telephoto lens of her camera to get a closer look at what appeared to be an overturned vehicle on the Columbia Icefield, one of the country’s prime tourist spots.

Three people were killed and 14 others suffered life-threatening injuries when a glacier bus carrying tourists to a glacier, rolled over.

Bye, who’s from Calgary, and her husband had taken the icefield tour earlier in the day. When her husband said it looked like another bus had turned over she had a closer look.

“I took my camera and zoomed as far as it could go and I’m like yeah, it is wheels up. I could see even more stuff and realized they were still getting people out and I was shocked at that point to realize this has just happened,” Bye said.

“You could definitely see people were crouched over the windows, helping people out. There were a couple of people in helmets. I was able to see there were a couple of people laying on the ground but as I said, not everybody must have been out.”

Bye said when they left they ran into several emergency vehicles on the way. She said watching it from a distance is still playing on her mind.

“It’s still surreal for all of us. We’re probably all still in shock as to what happened and that’s why it hasn’t hit that it could have been us.”

Police worked to remove the upturned vehicle throughout the day Sunday.

A lone RCMP truck with its lights flashing guarded the entrance to the road where the vehicle appeared to have rolled about 50 metres down a steep embankment for as yet unknown reasons. Authorities were still trying to work out how to move the coach.

“That’s going to be part and parcel is the logistics to have that vehicle removed from the site itself,” RCMP Cpl. Leigh Drinkwater said.

READ MORE: Glacier sightseeing bus rolls in the Alberta Rockies killing 3 and injuring others

One person could be seen on top of the “Ice Explorer,” which remained on its roof. Three semi-trailer trucks, two with flatbeds, were at the entrance.

The iconic red and white vehicles, which look like buses with monster-truck tires, regularly leave from a visitor centre and take tourists up a rough road onto the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park.

In all, 27 people were aboard when it crashed. Air ambulances from across the province ferried the injured from the picturesque but remote location.

Alberta Heath Services said 24 patients were taken to hospitals in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Calgary and Banff, 14 of them with life-threatening injuries. AHS said five others were in serious condition while the remaining five were listed as stable.

AHS said hospitals in both Edmonton and Calgary were put on “Code Orange” alert so they would be prepared for the high number of patients with critical and serious injuries.

There was no further word Sunday on the conditions or identities of those involved. Police did say the three people killed were adults. They also confirmed no further fatalities.

In a tweet Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences.

“To those who lost a loved one in yesterday’s bus crash at the Columbia Icefields, know that we are here for you and are keeping you in our thoughts,” Trudeau said. “We also wish a full recovery to those who were injured. And to the first responders, thank you for your quick action and hard work.”

In a statement on Sunday, the company that runs the tours expressed sympathy for the victims and their families. Dave McKenna, president of Pursuit, also thanked first responders.

“The RCMP and Occupational Health and Safety are on site and actively investigating,” McKenna said in a statement. “An update will be provided following the investigation.”

The company reopened the icefield tours about a month ago with 50 per cent capacity after being closed due to COVID-19. The tour has guests drive onto the Athabasca Glacier, where they can walk on the glacier and fill their water bottles with the pure, cold runoff.

The vehicle was on its way to the glacier when it crashed.

Rob Kanty, who was on an earlier bus and witnessed the incident, said he believed a rockslide might have played a role.

“We watched the event unfold from the parking lot,” Kanty said in an email. “We could see the dust and rocks still sliding down the mountain towards the tour bus already rolled over on its roof.”

The Columbia Icefield is one of the largest non-polar icefields in the world. It is located about 100 kilometres south of Jasper and accessed from Highway 93 North, the Icefields Parkway. The parkway leads from Jasper down to Lake Louise through Banff and Jasper national parks and is one of Canada’s most scenic drives.

Parth Bala drove 27 hours from Scarborough to the Canadian Rockies and had planned to take the tour Sunday. He said the trip had been planned over the past 10 years and it’s a disappointment.

Bala said he’d happily ride it in the future.

“Lightning doesn’t strike the same spot twice in a row so we’re going to see how the professionals assess the situation and when it’s safe to do so we will assess at that point.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

AlbertaRCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file photo)
Bylaw officers called to Saanich park for COVID-19 protocol violations on pickleball court

Raquet sport players reminded to avoid doubles play amid pandemic

Victoria police say a missing teen has been located safe. (Black Press Media file photo)
Missing teen located safe: Victoria police

Missing person alert ended for high-risk missing 14-year-old

Central Saanich installed a temporary portable along Lochside Trail near Michell’s Farm Market and remains in discussion with the Capital Regional District about finding what Mayor Ryan Windsor called a ‘permanent solution’ to ensuring washroom access at the popular location. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich in talks with CRD about ‘permanent’ washroom facility near Lochside Trail

The municipality installed a temporary portable washroom near Michell’s Farm Market last week

A video captured by Twitter user Teddy Jenner of a fire in Beacon Hill Park the night of Jan. 21, 2021. (Twitter/@OfftheCrosseBar)
Fire rips through tents, wooden structures in Beacon Hill Park

Emergency crews say there was no injuries in the blaze

There are many options for enjoying a meal out locally during Dine Around and Stay in Town, on now through Feb. 7. (10 Acres Commons)
Dine Around Stay in Town Victoria carries added importance during pandemic

Special menu items for eat in or takeout/delivery, staycation deals available through Feb. 7

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Most Read