In what police describe as a devastating tragedy, an Olds woman and two young Red Deer area labourers are dead after a fatal collision near Olds on Monday.
The head-on collision between a minivan and SUV on Hwy 27 just east of the town around 5:45 p.m. left four others badly injured.
The lone occupant of the SUV was a resident of Olds and one of those killed, said Olds RCMP.
The SUV driver was Donna Mills, 56.
The six male occupants of the van were all residents of Red Deer or the Red Deer area.
They had been working with a Blackfalds construction company on the new Sunrise Encore retirement facility in Olds.
The driver and one occupant of the van died at the scene. One was 19, the other 20.
Three other passengers were in critical condition and sent to Foothills Hospital in Calgary. Two of those were airlifted by STARS.
The remaining passenger was taken by ground ambulance to Olds General Hospital in stable condition. He was the only one ambulatory at the scene, said Const. Rob Power of Olds RCMP, who was one of the first responders.
Power said two of the victims are now stable and progressing well. The third victim recovering in Calgary is still in critical but stable condition.
“All patients sustained significant traumatic injuries as a result of the collision, varying from internal injuries to fractures,” said Adam Loria, public education officer with Calgary EMS.
Multiple emergency crews responded to the crash from Olds, Didsbury and Airdrie.
Loria called the incident “very traumatic.”
It is initially believed the SUV was westbound on the highway, a rural, undivided two-lane stretch of road. The van was heading east, towards Range Road 12, when the two collided.
Police say early indications suggest the van veered into the westbound lane.
“It would appear that is was just a minor driver error. The roads were good. Speed doesn’t appear to be a factor. Alcohol is not a factor — there is nothing to indicate they had been drinking. They’d just left work,” Power said. “Right now we’re just hoping that everyone who survived pulls through and making sure the families have the support that they need. … It’s devastating tragedy.”
The highway was reopened around 10:30 p.m. on Monday.
Police will not be releasing the names of those involved in the collision.
Mills’ son, Mark Mills, who is a musician in Calgary, posted a message honouring his mother on his Facebook page on Tuesday morning:
“Twenty-nine years after bringing this fragile flesh of mine into the world, my mother passed on,” he wrote. “She helped me through every change in life, and asked for little in return. Her unconditional love will resonate through the ages. For all that I am, thank you mom. For sending me love 29 years straight, thank you mom. For teaching me how to nurture a child, thank you mom. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my mother you’ll be . . . .”