Canada bus crash ‘a tragedy nobody would have imagined’

Country mourns death of 15 junior hockey players


Fifteen people were killed when a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey team collided with a truck in Saskatchewan province in one of the worst disasters to strike Canada’s sporting community.

The tragedy sent shock waves 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 were taken to hospitals, with three of them in critical condition, police said.

The team had been traveling to a playoff game when the crash occurred at about 5.00 pm local time on Friday near the Tisdale area, around 300 km (185 miles) north of Regina.

“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 the truck, a semi-trailer, ‘T-boned’ the players’ bus.

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

The driver of the tractor-trailer did not suffer injuries, police said.

Citing relatives, the Canadian Press reported 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 travelling 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. Counselling 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 organisations and political leaders.

“I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond,” prime minister Justin Trudeau wrote in a tweet.

In a post on Twitter, US president Donald Trump said he had spoken with Mr 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.–Reuters