RCMP is investigating two crashes on a highway between Banff and Jasper that killed six people and sent several others to hospital on Tuesday evening.

The first crash happened at 5:00 p.m. along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, about five kilometres south of Sunwapta Falls.

Police say a van was travelling northbound when it collided with a vehicle that was travelling southbound on the highway.

Four people in the southbound vehicle died at the scene.

A family of five, visiting from the United States, was in the van. Two of the occupants were pronounced dead at the scene, two were taken to hospital in serious condition and a toddler was transported to hospital but was uninjured in the crash.

A third vehicle tried to avoid the crash and wound up in the ditch. The occupants sustained minor injuries.

Gagan Sidhu was on his way to Stony Plain when he came across the crash and told CTV News that it looked like the two vehicles collided head-on.

“I could see the front of the car, bent so badly that it was a head-on collision, for sure, this is what I think,” he said. “It was a very bad scene.”

He says cell service in the area was spotty, making it difficult to get through to 911, and that a number of people stopped to help.

“We could see two cars just starting to burn heavy in the fire,” he said. “They were in the middle of the road and they were on fire.”

Sidhu says bystanders used shovels and extinguishers to try and douse the flames while waiting for emergency crews to arrive.

“We had to fight fire from the burning cars because it was spreading towards the trees,” said Sidhu. “There were three or four people there with fire extinguishers.”

“Members of the public were enormously helpful in saving lives and helping everyone they could” said Sergeant Rick Bidaisee of the Jasper RCMP Detachment in a release.  “We want to thank everyone who selflessly pitched in and helped us.” 

Emergency crews responded to a second crash on the highway at 9:20 p.m.

Six people were transported to hospital in Jasper with non-life threatening injuries.

Police say the second crash was not part of the fatal collision.

Traffic on Highway 93 was re-routed in both directions for several hours and the roadway was reopened at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Two collision analysts attended the fatal crash and the investigation is ongoing.