OSOYOOS - Victim assistance workers are helping the families of three people killed in a horrific crash on Highway 97 north of Osoyoos.
Two people died in the crash Tuesday, and police revealed Wednesday that a third person died in South Okanagan General Hospital following the two-vehicle crash on what is known locally as Graveyard Hill.
Bernard Lee, 78, was the driver of a southbound 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV that was struck head-on by an oncoming 1994 Dodge Caravan shortly before 1 p.m.
The driver of the Caravan, Judy Jackson, age 63, and a passenger in the Hyundai, 60-year-old Diane Lee, were pronounced dead at the scene. All were Osoyoos residents.
Cpl. Bryce Petersen of the RCMP's South Okanagan Traffic Services said the highway was closed to traffic for several hours after the crash as police investigators reviewed the scene.
"When someone dies, we treat a fatal collision like a murder scene," he explained. "We just shut everything down, gather our evidence and then we open it up as best we can to prevent contamination of the evidence.
"We want to make sure that we're not damaging the investigation for the purposes of opening things to the general public."
RCMP are trying to determine why the northbound Caravan crossed the centre line and strayed into oncoming traffic. Highway 97 is undivided with one lane in each direction at that location, just south of a recently constructed four-lane section.
Alcohol and speed are not believed to be factors.
Petersen noted both vehicles were heavily damaged in the crash.
"Both vehicles, the crush was pretty severe," he said. "If both vehicles were travelling at 80 km/h, the combined impact would be 100 m.p.h. or 160 km/h."
The crash has shaken the community. Petersen noted victim assistance staff are helping the family members involved.
"Now that we have three dead in one crash, it's kind of devastating to a number of families," he said. "They're all over 60 and things are pretty tough."
The BC Coroners Service is also investigating the crash.