A northern Alberta woman who survived a fatal tour bus crash in Jasper National Park this summer says 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 vehicle involved in the rollover.
Three people, including her uncle and a friend, died July 18, when a glacier sightseeing bus rolled off a road on the Columbia Icefield. Fourteen 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.
“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.”
Brewster Travel Canada Inc., Viad Corp., Glacier Park Inc., Brewster Inc., Brewster Tours, Banff-Jasper Collection Holding Corp., the unidentified driver and an unidentified employee of one of the tour operators are named in the statement of claim.
Patel, who wears a halo head brace for her neck injury, appeared at a news conference in Edmonton with her husband, 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 seven 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.
This is the second legal action against the tour bus operators. In August, an application for a class-action lawsuit was filed by James H. Brown and Associates with the Court of Queen’s Bench 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.
Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press