A husband and wife — parents to three young children — died after being pulled under water at Crescent Falls in west-central Alberta on Tuesday.
A third person, the couple’s nephew, also drowned.
The Pakistan Canada Association of Edmonton (PCAE) identified the victims as Partab Oad, his wife Sonam and their nephew, Anoop Oad. The group also started a GoFundMe page to support the family.
Ahmer Nadeem Menon, with the Pakistan Canada Association of Calgary, said Dr. Partab Rai Oad and his wife Venijhar (Sonam) Oad were both 38. He said 25-year-old Anoop Kumar Oad was an exchange student.
“Very brilliant family,” Menon said. “The doctor was educated in Pakistan but he got a British degree in medicine as well. Wife was a doctor as well. Highly-educated people.”
Menon said the Oad family was based in Edmonton but had a lot of extended family in Calgary. The Canadian citizens had been living in Alberta for about eight years, he said.
“We are very much grieved because this is such a tragic incident… losing three members of the same family is a big blow to our community.
“We are in shock,” he said.
Cpl. Laurel Scott, an RCMP media relations officer, said six members of the same family — five of whom lived together — were at the waterfall when one of the adults went swimming at the bottom of the falls.
Scott said two of the three people in the water were the parents of three children watching from the shore.
A GoFundMe page set up in support of the family says Anoop was “swept away by strong currents” and his uncle, Partab, “tried to save him but was also caught up in the strong currents.”
It was then that his wife, Sonam, also jumped in and tried to rescue the men, but “was also taken.”
The page says the couple left behind three children, aged three, six and 10.
Rocky Mountain House Search and Rescue was called to help Tuesday evening.
“When I got there, there were two people who were obviously deceased on site and we were told there was probably another in the water and that there were small children on site as well,” said Monica Ahlstrom, who is search manager and also president of Search and Rescue Alberta.
“We have a lot of incidents in this area just because of the nature of the environment here. But that one was significantly different than others that we’ve dealt with because of the scale of the tragedy.
“We don’t often have three family members involved in one incident.”
Ahlstrom, who has lived in the Nordegg area most of her life, said the Crescent Falls can be dangerous.
“They look benign… because it’s a beautiful waterfall,” she said. “There’s often a big pool out in front that’s only about knee-deep. But in this situation, it’s not because the water’s high; it’s because it’s low that’s causing the problem.”
“That big pool out front which usually has a nice stable gravel base under it isn’t there right now because the water is so low. So the water really is just up against the falls and the wall of the canyon. So then it becomes significantly more dangerous because of that.
“You don’t have very far before you’re sucked into the hydraulics of that waterfall,” she said.
“It’s instantaneous almost. It’s very powerful. Even if you’re a very good swimmer, you’d have trouble with that.”
Ahlstrom said every rescue is hard but responders try to focus on doing their job.
“The entire search and rescue community is really thinking about this family and how devastating this is for them. We send our condolences… It’s heartbreaking.”
Police said the children at the scene were taken to a safe location on Tuesday night and have since been connected with other family members.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the fundraiser had collected roughly $19,000.
The association is helping plan services for the three family members, Menon said.
He said Anoop was living with his aunt and uncle, who were also very involved in the community and encouraged youth in Pakistan to pursue education in Canada.