Humboldt Broncos player from Winnipeg survives deadly Saskatchewan bus crash

A Winnipeg hockey player is among the injured after a tragic bus crash that claimed the lives of 15 others.

Matthieu Gomercic was among 14 people injured in bus crash that killed 15

Matthieu Gomercic plays for the Humboldt Broncos and was on the bus when it crashed, but survived the crash. (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League)

A Winnipeg player with the Humboldt Broncos survived the fatal crash involving the team's bus in Saskatchewan on Friday, a close friend of the player's family confirmed to CBC.

Matthieu Gomercic's survival was a "miracle" and his injuries were minor, the friend said.

Fifteen people died, including Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, and 14 more were injured when the bus crashed with a semi-trailer Friday near Tisdale, Sask., about 200 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. 

Gomercic, a 20-year-old forward, is in his second season with the Humboldt Broncos. This season, he had eight goals and 21 assists for a point total of 29.

Before the Broncos, he played two seasons with the Steinbach Pistons with the MJHL.

Great friend and teammate

Julien Koga has played with Gomercic for years on Minor and Junior hockey teams. The two also attended university together. He describes the Broncos player as a "great friend and teammate." 

"He's a guy you can't help but smile around."

Koga was actually watching Gomercic's former team, the Pistons, play at the T.G. Smith Centre in Steinbach, Man. Friday night when he got word of the crash. "I was just in utter disbelief. I couldn't picture it didn't think it was real," Koga said.

He described getting a text from a friend, "and my phone kind of blew up with all the tweets that were coming in." Koga said he wasn't the only one who found out about the crash at the game. 

"There were a lot of tears in the stands."
Julien Koga said he's torn between feeling relief that his friend survived, and grief over the 15 who weren't as lucky (Rosalie Loiselle/Radio Canada)

At first Koga didn't know whether Gomercic was one of the 15 who had been killed in the crash. He told CBC News it wasn't until his family got a message from Gomercic's mother that he knew his friend was OK. 

"It was insane relief," Koga said. "But at the same time there are still so many victims that I don't really know what to feel or what to say."

Koga says he can't imagine what the victims' families and friends are going through and wants everyone to "extend our hearts out to them, keep them in our hearts and prayers, keep on showing them the support that we have been."

Long healing process

Dean Court knows the Gomercic family and said as a parent of hockey-loving kids, he was heartbroken.

"My son plays in the [B.C. Hockey League], just finished after three years there and that's all they do is bus," he said, while watching his son play at St. Vital arena Saturday.

"It's a challenge for a parent to be far away and not really have an understanding as to where they are at certain times of the day or evening because they're travelling."

Dean Court said the entire hockey community is affected by the news. (Remi Authier/CBC)

Court, who works as director of amateur development at True North, said Gomercic used to go there to train.

"I haven't seen him in just over a year, but they're a wonderful family and he's a great player and a great kid," said Court.

"I'm just happy, for his family, that he was one of the kids that survived. But he's got to go through a long healing process." 

His family watched the tragedy unfold on TV as they waited for news on who was hurt, said Court. 

"It kind of puts a lump in your throat as a father. My wife was in tears," he said.

"We're very sorry. It's a time to think of them, and think of how we can help them as a community be stronger and support in any way we can."

With files from Karen Pauls and Leif Larsen