5 dead, young boy in hospital after northern Alberta highway crash
3 victims are from Whitefish Lake First Nation
Several northern Alberta communities are reeling after five people were killed and a young boy was seriously injured in a highway crash Sunday.
RCMP from three separate detachments responded at around 7 p.m. Sunday after a pickup truck and a minivan crashed on Highway 750, just south of Highway 88. The scene of the crash is near Utikuma Lake, about 100 kilometres northwest of Slave Lake.
The 30-year-old woman and 36-year-old man in the pickup were declared dead at the scene, and RCMP said three of the four people in the minivan — two women, 65 and 51, and an 11-year-old boy — also died.
A five-year-old boy was the sole survivor, and he was airlifted to an Edmonton hospital in "serious, life-threatening condition," according to RCMP.
The four people in the minivan were all from Whitefish Lake First Nation, a community that's already mourning a five-year-old boy who was killed after being mauled by his family's dogs earlier this month.
Chief Albert Thunder said Monday that his community is enduring "devastation after devastation."
"We didn't even do the funeral for the five-year-old boy that passed away from before. We didn't even bury him yet," he said.
"The closure hasn't even started on that part, and then all of a sudden this tragedy happens."
Thunder said the two children in the minivan are brothers, and one of the women in the vehicle was also related to them.
Cause under investigation
RCMP said the woman in the pickup truck was a resident of Slave Lake, while the man was from Loon Lake, a community in Loon River First Nation. Thunder said one of the victims is also connected to Peerless Trout First Nation.
The affected communities are all member nations of the Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council.
"It's across the community, practically across the whole tribal council. The other communities that are affected, they're mourning the loss of a member," Thunder said.
"Just tragic, what happened, and we don't have an answer to why."
According to RCMP, an initial investigation by a collision reconstructionist suggests the pickup was driving north in a southbound lane of Highway 750, and it crashed head-on into the southbound minivan.
RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said the highway was closed for several hours on Sunday night.
"There is signs of alcohol consumption in that [pickup] truck, so RCMP are continuing the investigation with that," he said Monday.
"But we don't know for sure if it was a factor in the investigation."
Thunder said he's urging people not to speculate about what might have happened until police deliver a final report.
The Whitefish Lake First Nation school will be closed all week in the wake of the deaths, and Thunder said a crisis response team has been on hand to help.
"The community is devastated right now and we need all the prayer we can get."