Edmonton

Conditions 'dangerous' at Columbia Icefield parking lot where driver killed, colleague says

The Columbia Icefield parking lot where a bus driver was pinned and killed by her own bus on Thursday is often crowded and unsafe in winter conditions, her coworker told CBC News.

A 52-year-old tour bus driver was killed Thursday when her bus slid on ice and pinned her

The Columbia Icefield, North America's most visited glacier, is shown in this photo taken in 2015 from the Icefield Interpretive Centre. (Bill Graveland/Canadian Press)

The Columbia Icefield parking lot where a bus driver was pinned and killed by her own bus on Thursday is often crowded and unsafe in winter conditions, her coworker told CBC News.

The charter bus driver, 52, dropped off her passengers in the parking lot at around 1:20 p.m. When she left her bus to ask a driver to move their vehicle, the bus started sliding on the ice. 

She tried to stop it from hitting other vehicles and became pinned underneath and died, RCMP said. Her name was not released.

Ron Movat, her coworker at Canada Coach Lines Inc., pulled into the parking lot shortly after the incident. He saw other drivers pointing to a bus that had slid on the ice and collided with cars. That's when he heard the driver was stuck underneath.

Initially, she was conscious and being assisted by on-site emergency personnel, he said. He stepped away to call his boss. When he returned, they had started CPR on her but she wasn't responding. Ambulances from Jasper arrived at around 2:30 p.m., Movat said.

"It was horrible for all of us," he said.

'The ice needs to be dealt with'

The parking lot off Highway 93 is about 100 kilometres south of Jasper, the closest town. 

When a winter storm blew in earlier this week, snow settled and compacted on the parking lot before it was cleared. It caused icy conditions and covered long lines on the parking lot marked for buses, Movat said.

He believes the parking lot wasn't safe for drivers at the time, and said bus drivers have complained about it before.

"If you've got a parking lot that's dangerous in critical areas where vehicles need to turn and people are being dropped off, the ice needs to be dealt with. And also there were way too many vehicles in there," Movat said.

"She shouldn't have been in that situation, she should have been able to just … get her passengers off of the bus in a safe manner and then go and park her bus. But that wasn't possible because there were cars in there blocking the way and she ended up stopping somewhere where she couldn't move any further on the ice."

She shouldn't have been in that situation, she should have been able to just … get her passengers off of the bus in a safe manner and then go and park her bus.- Ron Movat

Neither Canada Coach Lines Inc. or Pursuit Collection, the company that manages the parking lot, immediately returned CBC's requests for comment.

Movat said he has also tried to make suggestions to Parks Canada to improve the safety of the parking lot, but has not seen any changes made. 

Movat said Canada Coach Lines is trying to subcontract a day of work to another bus company to allow employees time to join together in remembering their colleague.

"I'm not sure what the service is going to be, but I know that everybody's going to want to go," he said.

"She was such a dedicated employee."

With files from Madeleine Cummings

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