Calgary

Icefield rollover survivor who lost wife wants report released

A man who lost his wife when an all-terrain tour bus rolled at the Columbia Icefield in the Rocky Mountains is pressing the RCMP for answers about what happened.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

A rolled-over tour bus rests where it fell on the Columbia Icefield near Jasper, Alta., Sunday, July 19, 2020. A man who lost his wife is pressing the RCMP for answers about what happened. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

A man who lost his wife when an all-terrain tour bus rolled at the Columbia Icefield in the Rocky Mountains is pressing the RCMP for answers about what happened.

Three people were killed and 14 others had life-threatening injuries on July 18, 2020, when the red-and-white Ice Explorer lost control on the road to the Athabasca Glacier, about 100 kilometres southeast of Jasper, Alta.

The bus with 27 people on board rolled about 50 metres down a moraine embankment before coming to rest on its roof.

Tarun Patel, 34, and his wife Griva, who was 28, decided to take the tour on a weekend away from their Edmonton home after being locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patel, who was seriously injured, said he was taking photos next to the window and his wife was sitting beside him.

"I felt was like the bus was going probably fast," Patel told The Canadian Press. "I thought that was probably normal, because there must be a slope or something, so I ignored it. Then someone's head just banged onto something.

"Someone shouted pretty hard. I don't remember anything after that for I don't know how long."

Patel said he woke up and found he had been thrown from the bus. He said his friend, who was standing over him, had pulled Patel's scalp down after it was peeled back from his head.

There was blood everywhere.

His friend began calling for his wife and "I realized where's mine? I shouted my wife's name — 'Griva, Griva' — twice. There was a police officer. He was standing right next to me," Patel said.

"He pulled my attention and he showed me my wife was in the body bag right next to me. He asked me to recognize her face. I told him, 'That's my wife,' and then he told me, 'She is no more."'

The RCMP has not released the report into the rollover. It was initially promised by the spring of this year and then the fall. Now it's not expected until next spring.

"Once the Alberta RCMP's investigation is completed, the results will be forwarded to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service for advice as to whether the evidence supports any criminal charges," said RCMP Cpl. Deanna Fontaine.

"The RCMP investigation is independent of other investigations by federal and provincial investigators."

Lawsuits filed 

At least two lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the people on the bus that day, including one by Edmonton lawyer Rick Mallett.

His motion, to be heard by a judge in January, is asking for a court order directing the RCMP to hand over a complete or partial copy of the report and all other police files connected to the rollover.

Patel, who suffered fractures to both knees in addition to his head injury, just wants to know what happened.

"We went for a weekend and she never came back. I ended up in the hospital for three months."

He said he is doing well physically, but "emotionally I have some pretty bad breakdowns."

Patel still wears his wife's fitness watch as a "24-7" reminder of her.

"Please give us the report as soon as possible," he asks. "I lost my wife and I want to know what happened and how it happened."

Tours of the Icefield resumed last May. Seatbelts have been added to the buses, and changes to driver training and road maintenance have been made.

Pursuit, the company that runs the tours, did not respond to a request for comment.

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