Lawsuit by survivors of fatal Alta. icefield rollover totals $17M
Published Wednesday, September 30, 2020 2:23PM MDT Last Updated Wednesday, September 30, 2020 6:30PM MDT
EDMONTON -- Some of the survivors of a fatal bus rollover on the Jasper National Park Columbia Icefield are looking to get an advance on any settlement that may come from their lawsuit to cover mounting treatment and travel expenses.
Lawyers representing seven of the victims told media on Wednesday the investigation into the crash is progressing, but slower than the victims can afford.
“A lot of the plaintiffs who were on this tour bus aren’t residents of Edmonton or Calgary, but that’s where they ended up staying for hospitalizations, treatments, and care,” explained Diamond & Diamond lawyer Basil Bansal.
“They’re stuck living in the larger cities and have to pay double the rent, take care of themselves, pay for medications, while they have homes or houses in other parts of Alberta or other parts of Canada.”
There were 27 people on the all-terrain Ice Explorer when it rolled an estimated 50 metres down a moraine embankment from the road to the Athabasca Glacier.
Three people were killed in the July 18 crash, including Sweta and Suraj Patel’s uncle and friend.
The couple are two of seven represented by Diamond & Diamond asking for more than $17 million in damages.
Through tears, Sweta Patel told media the physical and emotional recovery has been agonizing.
“They said it might take over six months for me to recover fully,” the High Prairie resident said.
“Right now, I cannot do any activity, even if it’s my daily routine activities. My personal care – I need someone to do it for me. I can’t do anything.”
Patel moved to Canada from Kenya two years ago and had been working to become a registered nurse.
She told CTV News Edmonton her future is very uncertain given the extent of her injuries: Patel had more than 20 fractures, including to her C1, scapula, ribs, and orbital bone, and she now wears a spinal brace.
Her husband has not yet returned to work as a pharmacist in High Prairie.
The couple said their family has been unable to get visas to come to help them in Canada, so despite generosity from friends, they feel very alone.
“We have to remember that this vehicle was not on a regular highway. The vehicle crashed on a glacier road. It’s an isolated road. Difficult terrain. To go an investigate the scene itself, first of all, takes a lot of time, and then transporting a vehicle of that size would take a lot of time,” Bansal said.
“But that still doesn’t mean that the tour bus company should leave their passengers and victims in the dark and not provide assistance.”
Named in the statement of claim filed in Calgary are Brewster Travel Canada Inc., Viad Corp, Glacier Park Inc., Brewster Inc., Brewster Tours, Banff-Jasper Collection Holding Corp. and the unidentified driver of the coach.
A spokesperson for Pursuit told CTV News Edmonton, "Since the incident occurred, we have been committed to supporting those involved in the incident, their families and our staff with any immediate and ongoing needs."
"We continue to actively support a transparent and multi-agency investigation into the cause of this tragic accident."
The lawsuit alleges the crash was preventable and that the parent company failed to ensure reasonable care for its passengers, properly equip the bus with seatbelts, carry out proper inspections or repairs and train its driver.
Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit has told media the vehicles are not required to have seatbelts as they are not licenced to be on other roads and do not exceed 40 km/h.
With files from The Canadian Press