Richard Altvater, his wife Kunthea and their three young children were on their way home from a relaxing weekend in the B.C. Rockies Sunday when disaster struck.
The Alberta family’s white Chevrolet minivan veered off course on Highway 3, eight kilometres west of Fernie, and plunged upside down into the freezing waters of the nearby Elk River.
Upon witnessing the chaos, two strangers passing by sprang into action, pulling all five members of the family out of the vehicle.
CPR was performed on Kunthea but she was pronounced dead on scene.
As of Wednesday, her youngest son Ben, 4, remained unconscious in an Edmonton hospital, according to family.
Middle child Alex, meanwhile, is being cared for in Calgary at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The five-year-old awoke Tuesday but remains in serious condition.
Older sister Rachelle, 7, has been released from hospital as has Richard but they remained at Alex’s bedside Wednesday, according to Richard’s brother Matthew Atlvater.
Matthew said he was keeping close watch over Ben, adding doctors are still assessing the full extent of injuries sustained by both boys.
He has kept in close contact with Richard, but said the grieving father has refrained from reliving the highway horror he went through Sunday.
“He’s struggling obviously — he just lost his wife,” Matthew said Wednesday afternoon. “He’s been through an awful incident.”
Richard and Kunthea had been married for 12 years and lived in Coaldale. Much of their family lives in Calgary and Red Deer and are now rallying to support the family.
Kunthea worked in a role with the government and Matthew described her as being a “fantastic” caregiver.
“She was the best mother the kids could have asked for,” he said.
Elk Valley RCMP continue to investigate the crash but have said Richard may have been attempting to pass another vehicle on the highway when he lost control in what were described as slushy road conditions.
Matthew said funeral arrangements for Kunthea had been put on hold indefinitely, adding doctors have not offered a timeline for when either of his brother’s boys will be released from hospital.
A trust fund is being set up for the Altvater kids,” Matthew said.
“The No. 1 priority right now is the kids, making sure they’re OK,” he said.