Emergency crews respond to a crash on Highway 93. The July 22 crash resulted in multiple fatalities.

Emergency crews respond to a crash on Highway 93. The July 22 crash resulted in multiple fatalities.

UPDATED: Fiery accident in Kootenay National Park

Columbia Valley RCMP and East Kootenay Traffic Services are currently attending to three-vehicle collision on Hwy. 93 near Olive Lake in Kootenay National Park.

  • Jul. 22, 2011 5:00 p.m.

A California family in B.C. on vacation is dead following an explosive three-vehicle crash on Highway 93.

The crash took place just after 3 p.m. Friday, on an s-curve bend not far from Olive Lake.

According to RCMP, a flat-deck tractor trailer was headed south when it crossed the centre line and jack-knifed into the path of a northbound 1972 Dodge van.

Eyewitnesses say the driver of the van tried to avoid the truck by driving onto the shoulder of the highway, but was unable to avoid the collision. Road conditions were wet at the time.

The van, as well as a compact 4×4 it was towing, were pinned to the no post barriers on the side of the road. Meanwhile, the force of the collision caused the truck’s fuel tanks to ignite and explode, engulfing all three vehicles in flames.

The driver of the truck — identified as a 40 year-old truck driver from the Langley area — was able to escape the fire without apparent physical injuries, but RCMP say the intensity of the blaze made it impossible for passersby to assist those in the van.

RCMP, park staff and local fire and ambulance crews responded to the scene, and the highway remained closed until late that night as responders battled the flames and began their investigation.

The vehicles involved in the crash were so badly damaged that investigators were forced to move the van to another location, where it could be examined by a member of the mounties’ forensic identification team, to determine who had occupied it at the time of the accident.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP have since determined the van carried four passengers, most likely a family of four vacationing from Palo Alto, California who crossed into Canada a day earlier.

While police are not confirming the names and ages of the deceased, CTV has identified the occupants of the van as the Howard family, made up of Robert, 49,  Ana-Maria, 50, and daughters Samantha, 11, and Veronica, 9.

The driver of the truck was detained by investigators, but was released without charges.

RCMP are asking anyone who observed the vehicles prior to the crash, or who took video or photographs of the collision, to contact the East Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit at 245-420-4244.