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Columbia Icefield rollover charges laid under OHS law

The provincial government has announced that the company offering tours of the Columbia Icefield faces eight charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act regarding the fatal rollover of July 2020.

On July 18, 2020, an Ice Explorer off-road tour bus lost control on the road to the Athabasca Glacier and rolled down an embankment, killing three passengers and injuring 14 others.

According to Alberta OHS, charges were formally laid against Brewster Inc. on Tuesday in connection with the “serious incident,” including three counts of failing to ensure the health and safety of passengers by failing to check the danger of the “slope of the lateral moraine.”

Other accusations include failing to enforce seat belt use on employees, failing to maintain seat belts, failing to ensure that all equipment could “perform” its function safely safety and that all equipment used was “free from obvious defects”.

The case is scheduled to be heard June 23 in Jasper Provincial Court.

The alleged OSH violations have not yet been proven in court.

Alberta RCMP said the criminal investigation into the incident has been completed and prosecutors are reviewing the documents to determine if charges are warranted.

“The RCMP will provide a further update to victims and families in an updated news release when further information on the results of the criminal investigation can be shared,” police said.

Constables say the criminal investigation is “separate and parallel” to the OHS investigation.

Two civil lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the 27 people who were on the tour bus.

Tours using Ice Explorer vehicles resumed at Columbia Icefield last summer. The tour operator confirmed to CTV News at the time that seat belts had been added to the fleet and changes had been made to driver training and road and vehicle maintenance.

Pursuit Collection, the company that organizes tours of the Jasper Icefield and Skywalk, said in a statement to CTV News that it could not comment on the specifics of the case.

“We continue to support a transparent, multi-agency investigation into this tragic accident,” said Tanya Otis, spokesperson for the company.

The Columbia Icefield is located approximately 100 kilometers south of Jasper, Alberta and is one of the largest non-polar icefields in the world.

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