Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus in fatal collision with transport truck in Saskatchewan

‘One of the darkest days in the history of Saskatchewan’ as 15 die in bus crash

The Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team were on their way to a game when the crash occurred, which also sent 15 to hospital

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Members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team are shown in a photo posted to the team Twitter feed, @HumboldtBroncos on March 24, 2018 after a playoff win over the Melfort Mustangs. RCMP say they are at the scene of a fatal collision involving a transport truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos northeast of Saskatoon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Twitter: @HumboldtBroncos

Updated Monday at 9:50 a.m.: Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice says one of the deceased in Friday’s fatal crash involving the Humboldt Broncos bus was misidentified. The ministry says the body of Parker Tobin was mistaken for that of Xavier Labelle. It says Labelle is injured but alive, and Tobin is among the 15 people who died.

Updated Sunday at 10:30 a.m. with the names of others confirmed killed in the crash.

NIPAWIN, Sask. — RCMP say 15 people are dead after a tractor trailer collided with a bus carrying a junior hockey team to a playoff game Friday in northeastern Saskatchewan.

Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, with the Saskatchewan RCMP, says the investigation will be looking at all aspects of the crash to figure out what happened, and it may be a long time before investigators can determine a cause.

Zablocki said a lot of issues have to be investigated, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles.

“Due to the large amount of evidence, information, and the number of victims this work will take some time,” said Zablocki. “It’s too early to comment on the cause of the collision.”

A vigil for those killed in the crash will be held at the Humboldt arena on Sunday, April 8. The vigil is set to begin at 7 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET.

RELATED: How to watch the Humboldt Strong vigil

Police said initially that 28 people were on board the Humboldt Broncos bus when the crash occurred at around 5 p.m. on Highway 35 north of Tisdale. Later Saturday, RCMP said 29 people were on the bus and the 14 who survived the crash have varying degrees of injury, some critical.

The crash killed Humboldt Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz, top forward Jaxon Joseph and the team’s play-by-play radio announcer Tyler Bieber. Alicia Wack, cousin of Stephen Wack, told The Canadian Press he did not survive when a bus carrying the junior hockey team collided with a truck on an eastern Saskatchewan highway Friday. The names of those who were killed or injured have not been released, but some have been confirmed by family members.

The team president said parents from across Western Canada were rushing to the scene as they struggle to cope with the tragedy.

“It’s one of the hardest days of my life,” said Kevin Garinger.

“There have been multiple fatalities — our whole community is in shock, we are grieving and we will continue to grieve throughout this ordeal as we try to work toward supporting each other.”

Garinger said the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team includes players from Edmonton, Slave Lake and Airdrie in Alberta and from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Humboldt Broncos, in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, was on its way to play in Game 5 of a semi-final playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks.

RCMP said the truck driver was not injured and was detained by police before being released. Darren Opp, president of the Hawks, said a semi T-boned the players’ bus, but police have not confirmed that.

What we know about the victims

The crash killed the junior hockey team’s head coach, Darcy Haugan, captain Logan Schatz, top forward Jaxon Joseph, defenceman Stephen Wack and the team’s play-by-play radio announcer, Tyler Bieber.

Others in the crash who have been reported dead on social media include Connor Lukan, Evan Thomas, Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter, Morgan Gobeil,Adam Herold, and bus driver Glen Doerksen.

READ: Humboldt Broncos bus crash: A 16-year-old phenom, a gifted captain and a beloved coach are among the dead

Michelle Straschnitzki, who lives in Airdrie, said her 18-year old son Ryan had been taken to hospital in Saskatoon.

“We talked to him, but he said he couldn’t feel his lower extremities so I don’t know what’s going on,” she said, noting she will go to Saskatchewan on Saturday.

“I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates and I am losing my mind.”

READ: Humboldt Broncos family: ‘To wake up and find out he didn’t make it is devastating’


Humboldt mayor Rob Muench, in the Broncos jersey, along with other mourners lay down flower on the stairs that enter to Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos, in Humboldt, Sask., on Saturday, April 7, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards)

Many people wandered in and out of Humboldt’s Elger Petersen Arena on Saturday morning. Multiple crisis workers were assisting in a separate area.

Flowers were placed on the stairs in the rink stands and the railings were wrapped in yellow and green ribbon to honour the team.

Meanwhile offers of help are pouring in for families of the Humboldt Broncos.

The mother of former NHLer Colby Armstrong tweeted that families could contact her if they needed a place to stay in Saskatoon.

Canalta Hotels were offering to take in family members of those affected. An online fundraising campaign set up for family members of the team had raised more than $1.6 million by Saturday evening.

Hassan Masri, an emergency room doctor at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, said a code orange emergency was called signalling massive casualties.

“The images and the injuries that I saw yesterday, really that’s what they reminded me of, when there was an airstrike and a massive number of people would be coming in at the same time in horrible shape,” said Masri, who has done work in war-torn Syria.

Masri said it was emotional given Saskatchewan communities are knit together by hockey.

The team was on its way to play in Game 5 of a semi-final against the Nipawin Hawks.

Darren Opp, president of the Hawks, said the coaching staff and players from the Hawks were waiting to help.

“They are sitting in the church just waiting to hear any good news,” he said. “I’ve got 50 phone calls at least saying what do you want?

“There’s uncles and moms and dads waiting to hear whether their sons and nephews are OK.

“It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible.”

Pastor Jordan Gadsby at the Apostolic Church in Nipawin said more than 100 people had gathered at the church on Friday — including parents and grandparents of the players who were on the bus.

“Lots of them are waiting for information,” he said. “Some of the families have gotten information and have gone to be with their kids. Some of them are waiting to hear if their kids are alive.”

Garinger said the Broncos are a close-knit team from the small city of about 6,000 people 110 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

“This team has been an incredible rock in this community,” he said. “These young athletes. They are incredible young men, every one of them.”

Garinger, who has one of the players living in his home, said they still didn’t know his fate.

“We don’t know who has passed and we don’t expect to know right away,” he said. “We know that the coroner and their office needs to do their work and let families know.”

Garinger said all the team can do now is help the players and their families anyway they can.

“We just need to try to support each other as we deal with this incredible loss to our community, to our province, to our hockey world.”

Kevin Henry, a coach who runs a hockey school in Prince Albert, said he knows players on the team.

“People are in such shock. All these young men and boys. We send our kids to play hockey. It is sort of every parent’s worst nightmare,” he said.

“This is I would think one of the darkest days in the history of Saskatchewan, especially because hockey is so ingrained in how we grow up here.”

STARS air ambulance said it sent three helicopters to the scene.

Emergency crews block the highway near the site of a bus crash near Nipawin, Sask., Friday, April 6, 2018. RCMP say people have died and others have been seriously injured in a crash between a transport truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team northeast of Saskatoon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said what he’d been told about the collision was difficult to comprehend.

“To the City of Humboldt, the entire Broncos organization, and the families impacted by this tragedy, please know you are in Saskatchewan’s hearts,” Moe said in a statement.

“From a grieving province, thank you to every one of the first responders and medical professionals for your courageous response under the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

“Tonight, we all must pray for these families.”

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is a Junior ‘A’ hockey league under Hockey Canada, which is part of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. It’s open to North American-born players between the age of 16 and 20.


Facts about the Humboldt Broncos

• The Humboldt Broncos were travelling to Nipawin for Game 5 of their SJHL semifinal. The Nipawin Hawks lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 after losing Game 4 in triple overtime. The game was officially postponed by the junior-A league Friday night. Game 6 was scheduled for Sunday in Humboldt. The Estevan Bruins had already advanced to the championship final.

• The Broncos are the most successful team in Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League history. Humboldt has won the league championship 10 times and the RBC Cup, Canada’s junior A championship, twice since its inception in 1996.

• The Broncos have produced six NHLers since the team was founded in 1970. Curt Giles, Bill McDougall, Sheldon Brookbank, Terry Ruskowski, Neil Hawryliw and Grant Jennings got their start in elite-level hockey in Humboldt. Jennings went on to have the most successful career in the NHL, playing in 389 games with the Washington Capitals, Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. He won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

• Although Humboldt, Sask., had been home to several junior-A teams dating back to the 1940s, the Broncos didn’t get their start until 1970 when a group of local hockey organizers put together a new team for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The Humboldt group took the Swift Current Broncos up on their offer of an affiliation between the Western Canada Hockey League Broncos and a new junior-A club. The team in Swift Current provided Bronco sweaters and the Humboldt team was originally associated with nearby St. Peter’s College, an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan that operated a boys high school program until 1972.

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