Survivors of deadly Icefield tour bus crash near Jasper, Alta., to provide update on their case

Survivors of a tour bus crash in Jasper National Park that killed three people and injured 24 others are expected to speak at a news conference today as they pursue litigation in the case.

In a news release, Diamond and Diamond LLP — a firm specializing in personal injury claims — said lawyer Basil Bansal and victims will be addressing reporters in Edmonton Wednesday to provide an update on their case.

A statement of claim has been filed and the firm has been retained by seven plaintiffs. At least two are expected to speak at the news conference at 11 a.m. MT. 

You can watch the news conference here.

“The injuries sustained by the passengers are both permanent and catastrophic,” reads the news release.

Three people were killed and 14 others suffered life-threatening injuries on July 18 when a glacier sightseeing vehicle — operated by tour company Pursuit — was involved in a rollover crash on the Columbia Icefield. 

The all-terrain Ice Explorer lost control while carrying passengers on the road to the Athabasca Glacier.

The bus, which was carrying 27 people, rolled about 50 metres down a moraine embankment before coming to rest on its roof.

A tour bus was still upside down on the Columbia Icefield near Jasper, Alta., a day after it rolled on July 18, killing three passengers and injuring two dozen others. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

What caused the rollover of the big-wheeled, off-road tourist bus remains under investigation by RCMP.

An RCMP spokesperson said Wednesday it could be three months before collision reconstructionists can finish their work and release a report on what happened to Alberta RCMP investigators. A mechanical inspection on the vehicle was completed in early August. 

“This inspection is only one portion of this much larger investigation,” RCMP Cpl. Deanna Fontaine said.

In August, an application for a class-action lawsuit was filed by James H. Brown & Associates with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary, alleging the tour bus operators acted recklessly and unreasonably. 

Named in that statement of claim 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.

The lead plaintiff in the class action filed in Calgary is Devon Ernest, 22, from North Battleford, Sask..

Ernest was on the tour with his girlfriend, Dionne Durocher, of Canoe Narrows, Sask., and his cousin, Winnie Ernest.

Durocher died at the scene. Devon Ernest suffered a concussion, a fractured wrist and lacerations to his head and hands.

The class action must be approved by a judge if it is to go ahead.

Rick Mallett, the lawyer leading the lawsuit filed in Calgary, said he expects the case will be certified as a class action in a few months. In the meantime, investigators with the firm are gathering evidence, he said. 

Mallett said the firm hired a helicopter to obtain video evidence of the Columbia Icefield layout and is working on 3D modelling of what occurred.

The firm also plans to conduct its own mechanical inspection of the vehicle once RCMP make the evidence available.

“We’re still focused on driver error and the mechanical issues,” Mallett said Wednesday. 

“Many of the mechanical aspects are still under RCMP seizure so we’re still waiting for those to be released. And once they’re released, our experts will be having a look at those.

“There has been a lot of action over the summer and into the fall. It will depend a little bit on the court’s timetable, but I would hope over the next few months we’re in court on our way to certification. 

The class action has 12 claimants, he said, but ultimately all the passengers on the bus are included in the claim unless they choose to officially opt out. 

The Columbia Icefield is one of the largest non-polar icefields in the world. It spills down from the mountains about 100 kilometres south of Jasper.

WATCH | Witnesses describe helping victims of Alberta tour bus crash:

Three people are dead and 24 injured after a glacier sight-seeing bus rolled over near the Columbia Icefield in Alberta’s Jasper National Park. 1:25

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