Calgary

Support needed for years after tragedies like Humboldt Broncos bus crash

Gathering together for support — as Canadians are doing across the country — in the wake of major tragedies like the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that claimed 15 lives, is the simplest but one of the most effective thing people can do to heal, says the head of the Calgary Counselling Centre.

Calgary Counselling Centre CEO says acts of coming together important in first few days

A memorial at the stairs that lead to Elgar Petersen Arena is shown in Humboldt, Sask., on Saturday. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Gathering together for support — as Canadians are doing across the country — in the wake of major tragedies like the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that claimed 15 lives, is the simplest but one of the most effective things people can do to heal, says the head of the Calgary Counselling Centre.

"I think everybody can see themselves to a certain degree in what happened this weekend, in terms of having kids in sports, having kids on teams, having been on teams yourself when you were younger," Calgary Counselling Centre CEO Robbie Babins-Wagner told CBC News.

Calgary Counselling Centre CEO shares advice for coping in wake of tragedy

CBC News Calgary

3 years ago
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Calgary Counselling Centre's CEO shares advice for coping in the wake of a tragedy like the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. 0:32

"So I think providing support to people is really critical. Vigils meet the needs for some people, for other people it's sitting around and talking about what happened, for other people it's contributing funding to support the families, for other people it's bringing meals and food and for others it's just being there."

Fifteen people were killed and 14 injured when a transport truck collided with the Saskatchewan junior hockey team's bus while the team was headed to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask.

A vigil in Humboldt planned for 7 p.m. Sunday is expected to draw a large crowd, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and several current and former NHL players.

On Saturday night, NHL teams also honoured those affected by gathering at centre ice before regular season games.

Members of the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights gather at centre ice as a show of support for those affected by the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus crash that killed 15 and injured 14. (Rogers Sportsnet/NHL)

Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy survived a similar crash in December 1986 involving a bus carrying the Swift Current Broncos major junior hockey team, which saw four players killed.

Kennedy told Daybreak Alberta on Saturday that support is something that will be needed not just for days, but years going forward.

"It's critical we keep sharing the way we feel. And if you're feeling off, and you're feeling scattered and you're feeling depressed ... it's normal," he said.

"This is stuff we've learned over the 30 years [since] but I think at the time … I didn't know why I felt the way I felt. I felt this sense of loss, I felt this sense of guilt, survivor's guilt. And we really didn't have others to help us sort it out. We were kind of on our own at the time. In the last 30 years we've learned a lot around the impact of trauma and this support is going to be needed here a lot longer than the initial groundswell of support of maybe two weeks. This is going to have to be years."

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)

Kennedy and some fellow survivors from the 1986 crash were planning travel to Saskatchewan on Sunday, where he said they will help out "wherever we can."

"I was in contact with the mayor's office in Humboldt … and if I have to go out and make sandwiches, or if I have to go out and hold the door open, or if I need to be a chauffeur for people, or if I just need to go visit some of the players in the hospital and just show up," he said.

"I don't think it's a matter of trying to say the right thing or do the right thing, this is a minute by minute reaction right now, they're putting one foot in front of the other, they're responding to this one day at a time."

The Humboldt Broncos were on their way to a playoff game when the team's bus collided with a transport truck. (Humboldt Broncos/Twitter)

Kennedy said after the 1986 crash, survivors spent the first few days trying to piece together exactly what happened, and he expects the latest tragedy to be no different.

"My mind went back to that, thinking of the panic of parents not knowing if it was their child or not their child, and who was it or what happened," he said.

"To me, those feelings were real and those stuck with me yesterday. As time goes on, not only me, but others that survived our bus crash, can relate to the process that it took us to get through this. Right now … they're just piecing it together."

A GoFundMe account has also been set up to assist survivors of the crash and their families, which has so far raised more than $3 million.


With files from Daybreak Alberta

With files from Terri Trembath

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