Death toll rises to 15 in Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus crash
Warning: This story contains photos of the crash scene
On Wednesday, Dayna Brons died, bringing the death toll to 16. Read the latest here.
The death toll from the bus crash involving a Saskatchewan junior hockey team bus has risen to 15, a day after the tragedy impacting players, personnel and others with the Humboldt Broncos.
The RCMP said the 15th person died Saturday after the crash involving the bus, which was carrying 29 people including the driver, and a semi-trailer. Another 14 people were injured — some critically — in the collision about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, Sask.
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The president of the Broncos, of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, fought back tears Saturday as he described being "heartbroken and completely devastated" by the crash.
"These young men have had a significant impact, on our homes, on our families, on our children," said Kevin Garinger at a news conference attended by about 200 people in Humboldt.
The team includes 24 players, all from Western Canada, ranging in age from 16 to 21.
Head coach Darcy Haugan was one of the victims.
Broncos captain Logan Schatz, 20, and teammates Adam Herold, 16, Jaxon Joseph, 20, Parker Tobin, 18, Logan Hunter, 18, and Stephen Wack, 21, were also killed, along with Tyler Bieber, a play-by-play announcer who worked with Humboldt radio station 107.5 Bolt FM.
A close family friend said Matthieu Gomercic, from Winnipeg, survived the crash with "minor injuries."
Derek Patter, Graysen Cameron and Nick Shumlanski also were among the injured.
Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench was also emotional as he spoke of the widespread impact the crash has had, adding that he had spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day.
"This tragedy has hit a number of people, not just us, but I think everybody can relate to this experience," said Muench.
"Throughout Canada we see teams going out into the Canadian winters on buses all the time, and it's always a thought in parents' and fans' minds about what can happen and unfortunately has happened here."
Garinger said all families of the deceased have been notified.
Speaking at the news conference on Saturday, RCMP Saskatchewan Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki revealed new details about the crash and the investigation.
He said the male driver of the semi-trailer was not injured and, although he was detained temporarily after the collision, he has now been released.
Zablocki said it was too early to comment on the cause of the collision, but he confirmed the semi-trailer was travelling westbound on Highway 335 when it collided with the bus travelling northbound on Highway 35.
"This is a very involved investigation and, due to the large amount of evidence, information, and the number of victims, this work will take some time."
Bill Chow, president of the SJHL, had to pause as he was overwhelmed with emotion at Saturday's news conference.
"The worst nightmare has happened. As a league, we will support the Humboldt Broncos in every way possible."
A GoFundMe page to collect money for families affected by the crash had raised $1 million of its $2-million goal by 2 p.m. Saturday, 18 hours after it was created.
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Tom Straschnitzki, the father of Ryan Straschnitzki, one of the players injured in the crash, said his son suffered a severe back injury.
"He's alive and breathing, and from what we know he has a broken back, and as of now, can't feel anything from his waist down.
"He remembers he was in the middle of the bus and then he remembers waking up when the paramedics took him off the bus ... and he said, 'I thought the semi T-boned right in the middle,' but he said, 'no, it was in the front of the bus.'"
Straschnitzki and his wife will be leaving Airdrie, Alta., today to see their son.
The Broncos were on their way to Nipawin for Game 5 of its SJHL semifinal series.
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. <a href="https://t.co/2cIn2CTy08">https://t.co/2cIn2CTy08</a>—@JustinTrudeau
Just spoke to <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinTrudeau</a> to pay my highest respect and condolences to the families of the terrible Humboldt Team tragedy. May God be with them all!—@realDonaldTrump
The Hawks had been scheduled to play the Broncos on Friday night, but said on Facebook shortly after 6 p.m. CST that the game was cancelled because of the crash.
"Our community is in utter shock and we are trying our best to comes to grips with this unimaginable tragedy," Garinger said.
Like others in the small community of nearly 6,000, he said he knew each of the young men and staff on the team personally, and had been billeting one of the players at his home.
We are just in utter disbelief and shock at the loss that's fallen upon us.- Broncos president Kevin Garinger
"This is much larger than anyone can begin to imagine."
Garinger had been in Edmonton visiting a nephew in the hospital when he got a call from a fan, asking about reports of the crash. Once he started making phone calls, he learned of the extent of the collision.
"We are just in utter disbelief and shock at the loss that's fallen upon us."
He said the entire Broncos organization wanted to share their "deepest thoughts and prayers" to those most impacted by the crash, as well as their thanks to the emergency personnel who responded to the crash.
Humboldt's Elgar Petersen Arena was turned into a mobile crisis unit, as people gathered to support one another. Some made phone calls as they attempted to learn more about the status of their loved ones.
Daigon Elny, a member of the team last year, was one of those at the arena.
"We were a family," he said. "You come to the rink... what's better than that?
"Now I don't know what goes on now."
Premier, prime minister offer condolences
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said families who lost loved ones in the crash have the support of people across the province and Canada.
"I travelled the bus as a child. My brother played in this league," said Moe.
"Everybody across this province, I think, can relate to putting their child on a bus. Whether it be for a hockey game, a soccer game, whether it be for a choir concert or whatever that may be."
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted he had spoken to Trudeau to "pay my highest respect and condolences to the families of the terrible Humboldt Team tragedy. May God be with them all!"
STARS air ambulance says it sent two helicopters to the scene of the collision, on Highway 35, about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, near the junction of Highway 335, .
A few family members contacted by CBC News said they were waiting to hear more concrete details about their loved ones on the team.
'It's going to hit the community hard'
Muench said he first heard about the crash on social media.
"It was horrifying," he said, noting there are a few "local kids" on the team.
"It's going to hit the community hard."
A team bus carrying fans was also headed to Nipawin for the game.
The Nipawin Apostolic Church, at 109 Fourth Avenue East, was serving as a gathering place for families, and more information will be shared there, according to the RCMP. Emergency services and Victim Services representatives will also be on site.
The community was coming out to help, with local grocery stores bringing food, while others brought phone chargers and help to connect families with relatives. Those who had heard news about their loved ones quickly left to go to nearby hospitals, while others were still waiting to hear news, he said.
Parents and family of individuals seeking information about their family members who may have been in the collision can call 306-752-8700.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a statement Saturday commending medical workers for their response to the crash.
The health authority said it has sent counsellors to various affected sites to provide support.
This is the second time a Saskatchewan team with the name Broncos has been involved in a highway crash.
The Swift Current Broncos bus crash occurred in December 1986, killing four members of the Western Hockey League team. A memorial was placed at the site of the crash, about four kilometres east of Swift Current.
- A previous version of this story said there were 28 people on the bus and 14 people injured, along with the 14 people killed. That information was provided by the RCMP, which has since corrected that number. In fact, there were 29 people on the bus, and the latest death toll is 15 killed, with 14 injured.Apr 07, 2018 10:27 AM CT