'He can't feel anything from his waist down': Alberta player suffers broken back in Humboldt Broncos bus crash

Details are beginning to emerge around the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus crash in Saskatchewan that left 14 dead and 15 injured, three of those critically.

10 players on the team's playoff roster are originally from Alberta

Ryan Straschnitzki suffered a broken back in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, according to his father, Tom. (Submitted by Tom Straschnitzki)

Details are beginning to emerge around the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus crash in Saskatchewan that left 15 dead and 14 injured, three of those critically.

Officials and family have confirmed Broncos head coach, Darcy Haugan, was among those killed.

The team was heading from Humboldt, Sask. to Nipawin on Highway 35 for a playoff game Friday afternoon when their bus collided with a transport truck near Highway 335, just north of Tisdale.

Ten players listed on the Broncos' playoff roster have Alberta hometowns, including:

  • Graysen Cameron, Olds
  • Conner Lukan, Slave Lake
  • Jaxon Joseph, Edmonton
  • Tyler Smith, Leduc
  • Logan Hunter, St. Albert
  • Derek Patter, Edmonton
  • Stephen Wack, St. Albert
  • Ryan Straschnitzki, Airdrie
  • Logan Boulet, Lethbridge
  • Parker Tobin, Stony Plain

Straschnitzki's father, Tom, said Ryan suffered a broken back in the crash and is scheduled to undergo surgery on Saturday afternoon at a Saskatoon hospital.

"He can't feel anything from his waist down as of today," he said.

The father of one of the injured players posted this photo on Twitter. From the left are Derek Patter, Graysen Cameron and Nick Shumlanski. (Twitter/rjpatter)

"We're doing the best we can, we're really concerned about those that perished. We don't know who has and who hasn't yet. We're just trying to get out there and be with the Humboldt family and lend our support as best we can."

On Sunday, Ryan received a visit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who dropped by the hospital.

Straschnitzki said his son remembers little about the crash. 

"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 added he had spoken to Greysen Cameron's father, who said his son was also in hospital, and a friend of Cameron's shared a photo of the young man in hospital on Twitter. 

A family member confirmed player Jaxon Joseph was killed in the crash. Conner Lukan of Slave Lake was killed as was Stephen Wack from St. Albert. Team captain Logan Schatz, from Saskatchewan, also died in the crash.

Logan Boulet suffered fatal injuries and was kept on life support long enough that his organs could be harvested and donated, saving multiple lives, according to a family friend. 

"We're gonna fly out and we're gonna go see Ryan and I'm sure there will be strong hugs for about an hour then we'll go from there," Straschnitzki said.

"Hockey is a small community, we've had so many calls. We're getting texts and phone calls from people down east and some from the States. Everyone wants to help."

Receiving support from across the country has made things "way easier," he added.

Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, who survived the 1986 bus crash involving the Swift Current Broncos, says support will be key in the coming days. (CBC)

The crash is reminiscent of a December 1986 bus crash involving the Swift Current Broncos junior hockey team, which left four dead.

Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy survived that crash and said yesterday's incident brought back a flood of memories.

"When I first heard this, I just remember the day, and the first two or three days from this event happening and it was just about piecing it together," he said.

"If you look at the surviving players on this bus, they're in hospitals in different cities … they're wondering who is alive, who isn't alive, what happened to this person and they're trying to piece that together, so I think it's critical for us to put one foot in front of another and take this one day at a time."

A team photo of the Humboldt Broncos was displayed in the Calgary Flames dressing room on Saturday morning.

Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan — who played junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades — said the team will be playing in honour of those affected during their final game of the regular season at home against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. 

"I told our guys today, we're playing for the purity of the game, for the love of the game, that's how we all grew up playing," he said. "We're going to come out here and have some zip. These ... kids were playing for the same reason .. the love of the game."

Olympic gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser said the tragedy hits close to home as she trained alongside some of the players injured and killed to prepare for the 2014 Games. (CBC)

Olympic women's hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser said the tragedy hit close to home as she played against some of the team members as part of preparations for the 2014 Games.

"I'm devastated," she said. "We played against some of those boys who didn't make it and some that did last night. Just profound sadness and grief. There's just no words right now."

Riding buses is part of the hockey experience for Canadian teenagers, said Wickenheiser.

"I've been on the phone all morning talking to a lot of guys from Saskatchewan that played in the NHL and friends in Saskatchewan, just talking about how much time we've all spent on those buses, on those highways through the years," she said.

"Every time you get on a bus ... I think it's always in the back of your mind that something could happen, especially on those winter prairie roads, where there's a lot of bad circumstances in terms of weather and conditions.

"It's something you put out of your mind as a hockey player, the bus is the place you have to be to get to games. This is the worst possible scenario for any parent."

Other members of the hockey community have shared condolences for the loved ones of the Broncos' team.

Anyone looking for information about family members who may have been involved in the collision are asked to call the Government of Saskatchewan at 306-752-8700.

With files from Terri Trembath and The Canadian Press