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

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

There were 27 people on the bus when it crashed

JASPER, Alta. — 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 iconic red and white coaches, 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.

Police did not say what caused the wreck, but Rob Kanty, who was on an earlier bus and witnessed the crash, said he believes a rockslide may have played a role.

“We watched the event unfold from the parking lot,” he wrote 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.”

Cpl. Leigh Drinkwater said there were 27 people on the bus when it crashed.

Air ambulances were sent from all over the province to ferry the injured from the picturesque but remote location.

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

Police said all of the dead were adults, but they did not release any names or ages.

Drinkwater said getting updates from the scene was difficult due to unreliable cellular service in the remote part of the mountains.

RCMP said that members from the Jasper detachment, with help from Lake Louise and Banff, were on the scene as well as crews from numerous fire departments and Parks Canada.

The injured were transported from the site by rescue helicopters then taken to hospitals by air and ground ambulances.

AHS said EMS crews from Calgary, Jasper, Nordegg, Banff, Rocky Mountain House, Canmore, Hinton, Edmonton and Sundre responded to the incident.

Fixed wing air ambulances from Slave Lake, Lac La Biche and Edmonton, along with two STARS helicopters, and a chartered helicopter out of Canmore, were also on scene.

STARS air ambulance spokeswoman Fatima Khawaja said the choppers brought a 31-year-old man and a “middle-aged” woman to hospitals in critical, potentially life-threatening condition.

She said a 27-year-old woman was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition.

Khawaja said a doctor was also sent to the scene, and was on board a private chopper that helped perform “sling rescues off the icefield.”

She said STARS sent choppers from its bases in Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie.

Tanya Otis, a spokeswoman for Pursuit, the company that runs the tours, said the ice explorer was on its way to the glacier when it crashed.

“Our immediate concern is with the injured and their families and we are supporting the efforts of first responders,” she said in a statement.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted about the crash, thanking emergency crews for their quick response.

“Saddened to hear of this accident in the Icefields,” Kenney said. ”Prayers for all involved in the incident.”

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 the most picturesque drives in Canada.

Pursuit offers a Columbia Icefield Adventure, which it bills as a must-do experience for any resident or visitor in the Canadian Rockies.

The tour has guests board an ice explorer to drive onto the Athabasca Glacier, where guests can get off the bus to walk on the glacier and fill their water bottles with the pure, cold runoff.

The company reopened the icefield tours about a month ago with 50 per cent capacity after being closed due to COVID-19.

When full, Pursuit says the ice explorers can transport up to 56 passengers, including seated and standing room.

Most of Canada’s national parks, including Banff and Jasper, reopened to visitors in early June.

The mountain parks are typically flooded with international visitors at this time of year but, with the pandemic squelching travel, officials have encouraged all Canadians to explore their national parks this summer while respecting provincial rules.

Some of the more popular sites in the two national parks have been getting busier in recent weeks.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Community Christmas Eve Dinner cancelled

The 20th anniversary of the Community Christmas Eve dinner is cancelled amidst COVID-19 concerns

The consensus around the Sylvan Lake council chamber Wednesday was the town does not have the ability to properly enforce a proposed mandatory indoor mask bylaw. File Photo
Sylvan Lake town council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake RCMP are looking for the identity of the suspect who stole from over 40 resident mail boxes. (Photo Courtesy of Sylvan Lake RCMP)
Over 40 mailboxes broken into at Sylvan Lake apartment building

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating the incident and searching for the identity of the suspect

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read