A northern Alberta woman who survived a fatal tour bus crash in Jasper National Park this summer said she is one of the lucky ones, but her recovery will be long and painful.
Sweta Patel, 27, from High Prairie, Alta., is one of seven people who have filed a lawsuit against operators of the all-terrain Ice Explorer involved in the rollover on July 18, 2020.
Three people, including her uncle and a friend, died when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled off a road to the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield.
The bus rolled about 50 metres down a moraine embankment before coming to rest on its roof. The bus was carrying 27 people, of which 14 suffered life-threatening injuries.
“Sometimes in your life a quick moment can change everything. For me and my friends, July 18 was that moment,” Patel said Wednesday.
Patel said she has a fracture in her neck that is still healing and could be permanent.
“Though I survived, I am left with devastating mental and physical injuries. I now live a completely dependent life, filled with a series of doctors and legal appointments.”
Patel, who wears a halo head brace for her neck injury, appeared at a news conference in Edmonton with her husband Suraj, 31, who was also hurt in the crash.
She said she has a C1 fracture in her neck that is still healing and could be permanent.
“I have over 20 fractures and the pain that I go through every day — it’s not easy,” she said.
“Financially, we are also struggling at a time when there is extra economic uncertainty across the county.”
The plaintiffs are from the High Prairie and Whitecourt areas, but have been told to stay in Edmonton for better access to treatment for their injuries.
“Overall, I think the lasting effect is the trouble my clients have had trying to get their treatments covered through this tour bus company,” said Basil Bansal, a lawyer with Diamond and Diamond LLP.
The lawsuit alleges that the operators failed to ensure the bus was safe, failed to provide seatbelts, employed a driver who acted recklessly and unreasonably, failed to carry out proper inspections and failed to properly train their drivers.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Pursuit, the company that runs the Columbia Icefield tours, issued the following statement Wednesday:
“The incident at the Columbia Icefield last July was tragic and we continue to extend our deepest condolences to everyone involved. 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.”
This is the second legal action against the tour bus operator.
In August, an application for a class-action lawsuit was filed in Calgary.
The lead plaintiff in that lawsuit is Devon Ernest, 22, from North Battleford, Sask., who was on the tour with his girlfriend, Dionne Durocher of Canoe Narrows, Sask., and his cousin Winnie Ernest. Durocher died at the scene.
The class action, which so far includes 10 of the 27 people on the bus, must be approved by a judge if it is to go ahead.
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.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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