JASPER – It was a Saturday in mid-July when a tour bus carrying nearly 30 people plummeted down a hill in the Columbia Icefields and rolled, killing three and injuring 24 passengers.
Fourteen people suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash in Jasper National Park.
The iconic red and white coaches, which look like buses with monster-truck tires, regularly take tourists up a rough road onto the Athabasca Glacier.
Rob Kanty, who was on an earlier bus and witnessed the crash, 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.”
Ahad Saheem and his friend were taking pictures and drinking cold, clean water from the Athabasca Glacier when they heard a loud noise behind them.
“Our bus driver started running down the glacier and he told us that there had been an accident and we were stuck there for quite a while. He said that we cannot go back yet,” Saheem, 21, told the Canadian Press days after the crash.
“There were people with broken bones. There were people with spinal injuries,” he recalled.
“My role was to comfort all the injured people, people who were in pain,” said Saheem. “Help is on the way. Everything is going to be okay.”
The boyfriend of a woman killed in the rollover believes she would still be alive had passengers been wearing seatbelts.
Devon Ernest was with his girlfriend Dionne Durocher and his cousin when the trio boarded the off-road bus to head up to the Athabasca Glacier.
Ernest, who is from Saskatchewan, says the last thing he remembers is hitting the roof of the bus, then waking up next to Durocher who was barely breathing. She was later pronounced dead.
A few days after the crash, RCMP ruled out a rockslide as a potential cause of the crash, but warned the investigation could take months.
About a month later, at the end of August, a class-action lawsuit alleging the defendants acted recklessly and unreasonably was filed against the operators of a tour bus.
Named in the statement of claim filed in Calgary were 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 defendants knew or ought to have known that there was a significant risk to the plaintiff and class members and that the accident was a reasonably foreseeable result of failing to take adequate measures to prevent such incidents,” read the claim.
“The accident was caused solely by the negligence, gross negligence, or intent of the defendants.”
More than two months after the crash, some of the victims shared how their injuries seriously altered their lives.
Sweta Patel was a passenger on the bus when it rolled over. She suffered serious injuries and said her life has changed dramatically.
WATCH: A long recovery ahead, victims file lawsuit after crash
“I now live a completely dependent life, filled with a series of doctors and legal appointments. The recovery process has been slow and long. To this day, I do not know when me, my husband, and my friends will recover if we are even able to,” she said on Sept. 30.
Patel added she has had many surgeries since the crash happened.
Lawyer Basil Bansal, who is representing the victims in the lawsuit, read a statement from one of the passengers still recovering.
“I myself, have had multiple surgeries and as you can imagine, the recovery and dramatic changes to my everyday life leaves me crippled at times. My quality of life has been taken from me in what was a split second.”
The Columbia Icefield is one of the largest non-polar icefields in the world and one of the most popular attractions in the Canadian Rockies. It’s about an hour’s drive from the Jasper townsite.
-with files from CityNews, NEWS 1130, 660 NEWS, and the Canadian Press