‘An entire country is in shock ‘: 15 killed in Canadian youth hockey team bus crash

  • 15 people are dead after a bus collided with a tractor-trailer in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan on Friday evening.
  • The bus was carrying a junior hockey team and collided with a truck.
  • The news sent shockwaves through the hockey-loving nation, with condolences pouring in from former hockey players, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and others.

Fifteen people were killed when a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey team collided with a tractor-trailer in Saskatchewan province on Friday evening, police said, in one of the worst disasters to strike Canada’s sporting community.

The tragedy sent shockwaves through the hockey-loving nation and engulfed the home of the Humboldt Broncos ice hockey team, a small farming town of fewer than 6,000 people, in grief.

Fifteen survivors had originally been taken to hospitals, with three of them in critical condition, police said. One of them died on Saturday.

The team had been traveling to a playoff game when the accident occurred at about 5:00 p.m. on Friday near the Tisdale area, around 185 miles north of Regina.

Startling images from the scene showed a mangled bus lying next to the highway. It appeared to have been split in two from the collision, while the tractor-trailer lay on its side.

“Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss,” Kevin Garinger, the team’s president, said in a statement.

The players had been on their way to compete in Game 5 of a playoff series against the Nipawin Hawks.

The Hawk’s president, Darren Opp, told the Globe and Mail newspaper that the truck, a semi-trailer, T-boned the players’ bus.

“It’s a horrible accident, my God,” he said. “It’s very, very bad.”

It’s too early to state a cause for the deadly crash, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said, according to the Associated Press.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was uninjured and was initially detained, but later released, Zablocki said. Authorities have not publicly identified him.

The 2017-2018 Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team is pictured in this undated handout photo.

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The 2017-2018 Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team is pictured in this undated handout photo.
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Handout/Amanda Brochu via Reuters

Citing relatives, the Canadian Press reported that the Broncos’ head coach Darcy Haugan and the team’s 20-year-old captain, Logan Schatz, were among those killed.

Many social media users posted Haugan’s photograph alongside messages of shock and sympathy, and the hashtags #prayersforhumboldt and #humboldtstrong.

“God bless Darcy Haugan for being an incredible mentor and coach to young hockey players and prayers for his family to help cope with their immense loss,” the Western Provinces Hockey Association wrote on Twitter.

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL mourned the passing of those who died “and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they loved.”

‘Terrible tragedy’

A steady stream of people arrived at Humboldt’s Elgar Petersen sports arena on Saturday, consoling the grieving families and offering flowers. Counseling services for the victims’ relatives were offered in a nearby room.

“We woke up to the reality of what happened last night,” Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench told Reuters. “It has been a tragedy nobody would have imagined. It’s very tough but I have been trying to get the message out that we will get through this, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Condolences poured in from current and former hockey players, sports organizations and political leaders.

“An entire country is in shock and mourning today as we learn more about the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that claimed the lives of 14 people, and injured many more,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. No one should ever have to see their child leave to play the sport they love and never come back.”

In a post on Twitter, US President Donald Trump said he had spoken with Trudeau “to pay my highest respect and condolences to the families of the terrible Humboldt Team tragedy. May God be with them all!”

Pastor Jordan Gadsby of Nipawin’s Apostolic Church said hundreds of people, including parents and relatives of players on the bus, had gathered at the church late on Friday to seek information and solace.

“The worst part of the night was watching parents waiting for news of their kids,” he said. “There’s not a lot we can do. It’s a terrible thing that happened.”

For some, the tragedy revived painful memories of a bus crash in the province in December 1986 that killed four young players from the Swift Current Broncos ice hockey team.

An online fundraising campaign for the affected players and their families, with an initial target of $10,000, was set up late on Friday by the mother of a former Broncos teammate. By lunchtime on Saturday it had raised more than $1 million.

“Stay Hockey family strong,” wrote one donor on the GoFundMe site who said he was a coach from rural Saskatchewan.

(Reporting by Matt Smith in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Denny Thomas and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Tom Brown)