Three generations of a family were on their way to visit relatives in Houston last week when their minivan and a semi-truck collided head-on, killing three and injuring four others.
Texas authorities say the van carrying six members of the Minhas family from Calgary appears to have drifted into oncoming traffic Saturday morning northwest of Amarillo.
Upinderjit Minhas, who was driving, died in hospital, as did his six-year-old son Mehar Partap. The man’s mother, Nirmal, 68, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Minhas’s wife, Jasleen, and daughters Mehakdeep, 10, and Japuleen, 8, were taken to hospital. The mother and her eight-year-old suffered non-life-threatening injuries and the girl was released.
The eldest daughter was gravely injured with broken bones all over her body and remains in hospital in Lubbock, Tex.
The 57-year-old truck driver was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
“It’s very hard to accept this,” Harcharan Parhar, whose brother-in-law is married to one of Upinderjit Minhas’s sisters, said Tuesday.
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The family was in Texas to visit Jasleen Minhas’s parents in Houston, Parhar said.
“I believe their plan was to fly over there. But then they decided instead of flying, why don’t they go by van and then they can visit other places, because they had two weeks?”
Upinderjit Minhas would have turned 39 on Tuesday, said Parhar. Minhas came to Canada from India when he was a teenager and studied at DeVry University in Calgary.
He had a job with a financial firm that took him all around the world.
“He was a very intelligent boy,” said Parhar.
He described Nirmal Minhas as a ”very nice, very polite lady,” who was always happy and smiling.
Parhar said he’ll always remember Mehar Partap’s curly hair and smiling face.
“He was a very cute boy.”
Parhar said he spoke to Jasleen Minhas on Tuesday and she said she doesn’t remember anything after the van and truck collided with a bang because she was unconscious.
“What happened, nobody knows,” he said. “Something happened suddenly in seconds.”
He said several relatives have flown to Texas from Calgary and Toronto.
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Sgt. Dan Beusing with the Texas Department of Public Safety said the collision occurred on a two-lane secondary highway, which was dry at the time. He said the sun is unlikely to have been in the driver’s eyes at that hour.
“From the witness statement of the driver of the 18-wheeler, the minivan just turned into his lane,” Beusing said.
“Of course he doesn’t know what happened, but he said it looked like someone may have fell asleep.”
He said state troopers are investigating, but won’t question the mother until she is ready.
“It’s a tough thing to start asking questions at this point. It might be a while before they get a chance to interview her some more.
“It’s just a really, really tragic event.”
The Canadian Press