LLOYDMINSTER, Sask. — Mounties say they were chasing a stolen truck that crashed into a minivan and killed three Edmonton women, but add they called off the pursuit long before the deadly collision.
RCMP said two women aged 37 and 35, died Friday morning on Highway 16 just east of the Saskatchewan boundary, while a third, aged 53, died a short time later.
Police say in a news release that RCMP from Maidstone, Sask., were investigating three suspicious vehicles early Friday when they located two of them and then spotted the third — a flat-deck truck — driving nearby.
Police say they attempted to stop the truck, and chased it when it fled.
They say officers notified their supervisor about the chase, but the supervisor assessed the situation and called it off.
RCMP say the collision between the truck and the minivan happened approximately 35 minutes after the chase was terminated.
"In this case, a pursuit was initiated, quickly assessed and the decision was made to terminate it in accordance with policy," the RCMP statement states.
"No police vehicles were in the vicinity at the time of the collision."
A fourth woman in the van, who is 32, was being treated in an Edmonton hospital after the crash.
All four were members of the Liberian community in Edmonton.
Liberian Friendship Society of Canada president Thomas Bumbeh said all three of the women who died were mothers, and that one was a grandmother. He said they were travelling to Minnesota to visit a family and would have arrived back in Edmonton on Sunday.
Instead of welcoming them home, the church where they attended in northwest Edmonton mourned their passing with an emotional service where black cloths were draped where the women usually sat.
"It's a huge loss for the community. Everyone is confused," Bumbeh said.
"A lot of families depend on these people."
Bumbeh said the society would be holding a meeting Sunday evening to discuss how best to help and support the families of the victims, as well as the mourning members of the Liberian community.
RCMP said Friday that a 26-year-old man was in custody and charges were pending, but police said Sunday there was no further update.
Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, the commanding officer for RCMP in Saskatchewan, said in a news release that the decision to terminate the chase was made in conjunction with the force's Emergency Vehicle Operation policy.
Zablocki said the policy was developed because pursuits pose "a serious risk to the public," and that the policy outlines the requirements for initiating a pursuit, ongoing monitoring and assessing, and when to continue or terminate the chase.
The release stated Zablocki offers condolences to the families affected by the crash.
The Canadian Press