'We're going to have to mobilize': Classes cancelled in Humboldt following deadly bus crash

A number of schools in and around Humboldt, Sask. have cancelled classes Monday after a bus crash that killed 15 people and injured 14 others.

Schools bringing in grief counsellors through health region

Mourners embrace each other during a moment of prayer at a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos, to honour the victims of a fatal bus accident in Humboldt, Sask., on Sunday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

A number of schools in and around Humboldt, Sask., have cancelled classes Monday after a bus crash that killed 15 people and injured 14 others.

Officials in the school division started conversations Saturday about how to help students through the devastation said Randolph Maclean, vice-president of the Humboldt Broncos and deputy director of education for Horizon School Division.

"Twenty-nine people got on a bus Friday and they didn't get there," Maclean said. "There are 15 people who will not walk through their front door again. There are another 14 whose lives have changed. And it's not only them. It's parents, it's billets, it's the community."

A bus taking the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team to a playoff game collided with a transport truck on a highway north of Tisdale, Sask., early Friday evening.

The truck driver survived the crash. RCMP have not laid charges at this time.

A spokesperson for the Horizon School Division said that as of Sunday evening, four schools had cancelled classes in their school division as well as the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.

Those schools include Humboldt Public School, Humboldt Collegiate Institute (HCI), St. Augustine School and St. Dominic School.

The school division says support for the families and the school community will be offered off-site. For the time being, teachers will be briefed on how to help students when they return to school.

The school division said it expects classes to resume on Tuesday.
Humboldt Collegiate Institute will be closed Monday following a collision between a bus and a semi truck that killed 15 people. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Division preparing to help

Not only did many of the victims attend high school in Humboldt, some volunteered at the elementary schools, reading to younger students in their spare time.

Maclean also said a few teachers and resource staff members billeted players on the team. Some students lost siblings in the crash. Others lost their heroes.

"When there's a Broncos game, there's a thousand people in here and...a large portion of them are minor hockey players and they're going back into school," Maclean said.

'Each individual grieves and needs support and suffers anxiety in a different way, so we need to be able to respond. - Randolph Maclean

He said the division has called in Kevin Cameron, a national expert on trauma who responded to crises in La Loche, Sask. and Bathurst, N.B.

The division is also working closely with the health region to provide enough counsellors.

"The supports are going to be based on need," Maclean said. "Whatever the needs are, we're going to have to mobilize.

"Each individual grieves and needs support and suffers anxiety in a different way, so we need to be able to respond."

People of all ages brought cards, gifts and flowers to the arena in Humboldt, Sask., after the news broke. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

Youth 'grieving together'

Holden Holaday, a Grade 11 student at HCI, said the past few days have been tough, with both good news and bad news coming in.

"I was in shock and didn't believe it at first," Holaday said.

The 16-year-old said he played minor hockey with some of the teens who were in the crash.  

Holaday said his teammates and classmates have banded together.

"We've been hanging out a lot over the past few days, kind of grieving together," he said.

Morgan Gobiel, who is still in hospital, was captain of his team one year. He described him as "just awesome."

Holaday and the other members of the Midget AA Broncos went to the vigil together to show support for the victim's families.

Where help is being offered:

  • Crisis counsellors are available on site at the Elgar Petersen Arena.
  • The Saskatchewan Health Authority Healthline is free for non-emergency support 24-7. The Healthline can be reached by dialing 8-1-1.
  • Kids Help Phone is encouraging young people who are affected by the tragedy to seek support. Counsellors are available 24-7 at 1-800-668-6868. People can also text SUPPORT to 686868 to reach a trained volunteer responder through Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone.
  • Air Canada and WestJet are offering flights to Saskatoon for people rushing to be with loved ones in and around Humboldt. 

About the Author

Alex Soloducha

Alex Soloducha is a web writer/reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.