Six people, including two American tourists, are dead following a head-on crash near Jasper, Alta. on Tuesday evening.
RCMP said the collision happened at around 5 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 93 at Honeymoon Lake. The site is located about 60 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite and five kilometres south of Sunwapta Falls.
RCMP said a van heading north on the highway collided head-on with a southbound vehicle. Both vehicles caught fire, police said.
The van was carrying a family of five that was visiting the area from the United States, police said in a media release Wednesday morning. Two of the people in the van were declared dead on the scene. Two others were taken to hospital in Edmonton with “very serious injuries,” police said. A young toddler was taken to hospital in Jasper but was not injured.
“Miraculously, a two-year-old survived that collision. The two-year-old survived with no injuries,” Cpl. Laurel Scott with RCMP media relations said Wednesday.
Scott said two of the Americans were from Louisiana and three of them were from Texas. They were all family members, she said.
WATCH: 2 victims of fatal Jasper crash were visiting from the U.S.
Global News has confirmed the identities of the two people in the van who died: Angela Dye Elkins and her son-in-law Nick Copeland.
Global News also confirmed the other people in the van were Elkins’ husband, Curtis, the Elkins’ daughter, Sarah Copeland, who is Nick’s wife, and a toddler.
The southbound vehicle was carrying four people, all of whom were killed.
A third vehicle that swerved to avoid the crash ended up in the ditch, police said. Two people inside the vehicle suffered minor injuries, RCMP said.
“Members of the public were enormously helpful in saving lives and helping everyone they could,” Sgt. Rick Bidaisee of the Jasper RCMP said.
“We want to thank everyone who selflessly pitched in and helped us.”
Colorado resident Christina Loescher came upon the accident shortly after it happened and said bystanders, including herself and her husband, jumped in to help. She said they weren’t able to get close to the burning vehicles, but people ran to pull the pair out of the vehicle that ended up in the ditch.
“The bystanders were really amazing,” she said. “We went through the line of cars: Who had first aid kits? Who had blankets and water? … Who knows CPR?”
Loescher said the vehicle fire quickly spread to the nearby brush and forested areas. That’s when bystanders gathered fire extinguishers, shovels and even water bottles from other drivers to try to douse the flames. She said they kept watch until a helicopter equipped with a bucket arrived.
“Germans, Canadians, Americans, and there were some French speakers. I don’t know if they were French Canadians or another French-speaking country and everybody just pulled together and did a really phenomenal job. They didn’t just stand around and wait. They dove in and really took care of each other.”
WATCH: Six people are dead following a devastating crash near Jasper, Alta. Vinesh Pratap has the details.
Loescher said it was a horrible situation, but it was nice to see everyone coming together to do what they could.
“My heart goes out to the families who lost family members. It’s really tragic… It was a really instantaneous kind of thing and everything changes in that moment.”
Traffic was rerouted for several hours in both directions while police investigated and cleared the accident scene.
Mimi Reichenbach was heading to camp at Sunwapta Falls Tuesday night when the crash happened. She said she did not witness the collision, but she and her husband were stopped about five vehicles behind the police barricade.
Reichenbach, who is in Alberta from Montrose, Calif., said many stranded drivers jumped to help each other find alternate routes. She said her road map proved helpful due to inconsistent cellphone service.
“We opened it up wide on the hood of our car and allowed stranded motorists to snap pictures as there was zero service. RCMP came over to the map and helped direct others,” she said.
Once through the police barricade, Reichenbach said the staff at the Sunwapta campground were extremely helpful. They opened up empty offices, the lobby and the parking lot for stranded motorists, and offered them blankets and pillows for the night.
The highway reopened to traffic shortly before 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. RCMP said further information will be released only if charges are laid.
Just hours later, at around 9:20 p.m., RCMP said a second crash occurred on Highway 93 about two kilometres south of the first crash site. Police said one vehicle rear-ended another.
A spokesperson with AHS said six patients were assessed on scene and taken to the Seton Jasper Healthcare Centre in stable condition.
It’s been a deadly few days on Alberta roads. Early Tuesday, three adults were killed in a head-on crash on Highway 22 west of Calgary. One other adult was taken to hospital in Calgary with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
On Monday night, three people – including one child – were killed in what police believe was a head-on collision south of Sylvan Lake. The crash also left another child in hospital.
On Sunday night, two children were killed after a tractor towing a flat-deck trailer rolled near Taber. Three other people, including two youths, were taken to hospital after police said the trailer lost control coming down a hill. Eight people were involved in the rollover.
“This has been a terrible week for the province and a terrible week for tragedies on the highways and it’s really unfortunate to have to report on these,” Scott said.
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