'We've just had a whole family wiped out': Alberta village stunned by highway crash

A deep sadness settled over a small Alberta village on Tuesday as word spread that five local residents, including a family of four, had been killed in a highway crash.

5 people from village of Amisk killed in head-on collision on Highway 13 late Monday

Tim Carson, his wife Michelle and the couple's children Niki (front left), Savanah Leigh-Ann (front centre) and Shawn (front right) are shown here in an undated photo. (Carson family)

A deep sadness settled over a small Alberta village on Tuesday as word spread that five local residents, including a family of four, had been killed in a highway crash.

All five people killed in the head-on collision were from Amisk, a village of about 200 people in east-central Alberta.

Among the dead was a well-known local family, identified by relatives as Tim Carson, 52, his wife, Michelle, 44, their daughter, Niki, 12, and their son Shawn, aged nine.

"It's been a rough day," Beth Carson, a relative, told CBC News. "We've just had a whole family wiped out."

Amisk Mayor Bill Rock said the victims in both vehicles knew each other, and lived only two blocks apart.

'It's decimating to our community'

6 years ago
Duration 0:43
After five residents died in a highway collision Monday, Amisk Mayor Bill Rock says the community of around 200 people will recover one day at a time.

The driver of the SUV, who remains unidentified, was single and has lived in the village since he moved there as a boy 12 to 14 years ago, he said.

Further details about the man's identity will not be released until an autopsy has been completed, RCMP said.

Rock said the Carson family was already dealing with the death of their 15-year-old daughter less than a year ago. 

'Shocking and surreal'

The village council has already started to discuss how best to remember the victims, he said.

"They are very well known in the community — most of them lived in the community all their lives," he said. "It's so shocking and surreal that it's very difficult to determine what we're going to do yet.

"It's going to affect our town significantly. It's going to be difficult."

The collision between an SUV and a car happened on Highway 13 at Range Road 92, southeast of Hardisty, at about 7 p.m. Monday. Hardisty is about 200 km southeast of Edmonton.

The westbound SUV carrying a lone occupant crossed the centre line and collided head-on with an eastbound car carrying four occupants, police said.

Tim Carson was driving the car. His wife and children were the passengers.

There were no witnesses to the crash, but police said the SUV caught fire and went into the ditch. Firefighters put out the blaze.

All five were pronounced dead at the scene, RCMP said.

The village of Amisk is 220 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. (Trevor Wilson)

The first responders who rushed to the accident scene were all local volunteers, and would have known the victims, the mayor said.

RCMP victim services attended the scene and continue to help volunteers and RCMP officers, police said.

"As a police officer, motor vehicle collisions are very, very difficult," said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Ronald Bumbry. "One fatality is too many. In this case, we have five."

Road and weather conditions do not appear to have been factors, a release said.

'Our heartfelt condolences'

The Carson children attended a small school in Hughenden, nine kilometres southeast of Amisk. The school has an enrolment of 143 students.

"It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of two of our students as a result of an accident on the evening of Feb. 27, 2017," Bob Allen, superintendent of Buffalo Trail Public Schools, said in a statement.

"The school community is close knit and this tragedy has had a significant impact on many of the students and staff," Allen said.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of those involved in this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with them and the school community as they grieve." 

The crash scene on Highway 13 at Range Road 92, southeast of Hardisty, marks the place where five people died in a head-on collision on Monday. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

A crisis response team is providing support and counselling to students and staff who need it, the statement said.

Longtime Amisk resident Don Anholt said the people who died were well known in the village. 

"We only have about 200 people in town and all of the victims lived right in the town of Amisk," Anholt said.

"It's not outsiders, it was all locals in a small community."

"Everybody's just kind of finding out, and nobody knows what to think or what to say, and (everybody wants) answers about what happened," Anholt said.

Traffic on Highway 13 was rerouted after the crash but the highway has since reopened.

Police say the SUV crossed the centre line before hitting the car and catching fire. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

With files from Wallis Snowdon