'I just told him that I loved him': crash survivor

Bradd Arseneau is nursing four broken ribs and a bruised lung but the Grade 11 student says he knows he's one of the lucky.

Teenager mourns loss of his 'extended family'

Bradd Arseneau is nursing four broken ribs and a bruised lung but the Grade 11 student says he knows he's one of the lucky.

Bradd survived the accident that killed seven of his Bathurst, N.B., high school basketball teammates on the weekend.

"It was like an extended family because we'd stay overnight sometimes and for tournaments and we'd always talk in the van about everything," Bradd told CBC News. "It was just nice to be with them and everything."

The seven youths and a teacher died early Saturday when the 15-seat Ford Club Wagon van they were travelling in fishtailed and slammed head-on into an oncoming truck. The teacher, Elizabeth Lord, was the wife of the team's coach, Wayne Lord, who was driving the van.

Wayne Lord, his daughter Katie, 17, Bradd and another player, Tim Daley, survived the crash.

Bradd said his heart goes out to all the families that have lost a loved one, but added that the boys were a family and they died among people who also loved them.

During the drive back from a game the Bathurst high Phantoms had lost to the Moncton High School Purple Knights, the team was listening to music and talking, Arseneau said. It was just a regular road trip, he said.

Then the accident happened, he said.

"When everything stopped, the only person I could see was Timmy and he was praying. I was just calling out his name and reached out my hand and he took it and I just told him that I loved him."

Bradd was sitting on the driver's side of the vehicle, two rows back. He said he wasn't wearing his seatbelt but his father believes that may have been what saved him. The seat he was sitting in flew out of the van during the crash but the teen didn't.

"I would hazard a guess that that did save his life because he broke his ribs being thrown against the front bench seat and he lay on the floor," said Randy Arseneau. "Everybody else was out of the van."

Mom says Bradd under 'lucky star'

Peggy O'Neil-Arseneau said her son was under a "lucky star" on the night of the accident.

"I think Bradd was given a gift and was blessed and I don't think there's ever going to be an explanation," O'Neil-Arseneau said.

The Arseneau family said they are torn by the sadness in their small, bilingual community in northern New Brunswick, but are overjoyed that their youngest son survived.

"Thinking of my son, like the rest, where he would've ended up — I can't go there," Randy Arseneau said. "I can't let myself go there because I just fall apart and then I think of his best friends — I try — I can't go there either. They were like my third and fourth sons."

The town has rallied around Bradd, his parents said. His survival has become a source of comfort for many in the community, they said.

"Bradd as a patient was a little glimmer of light amongst the tragedy," O'Neil-Arseneau said. "Some kids took great console in coming up and seeing him, touching him, and kissing him."

Bradd will be attending the funeral for his seven teammates on Wednesday.

The public funeral, to be hosted at the K.C. Irving Centre hockey arena, starts at 2 p.m. AT (1 p.m. ET) and CBCNews.ca will be carrying the event on a live video stream.

A separate funeral is planned Thursday for Lord, 51, an elementary school teacher known for her love of music.