Manitoba

Winnipegger injured in Humboldt bus crash went straight to vigil from hospital: mother

The Winnipeg player with the Humboldt Broncos who survived the team's fatal bus crash Friday made it Sunday's vigil after being released from hospital the same day, says his mother.

Matthieu Gomercic's former billet family remains close with 20-year-old forward

Matthieu Gomercic plays for the Humboldt Broncos and was on the team's bus when it crashed Friday. His mom tells CBC he went straight to Sunday's vigil after being released from hospital. (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League)

A Winnipeg-born player with the Humboldt Broncos, who survived the team's fatal bus crash Friday, made it to Sunday's vigil after being released from hospital the same day, says his mother.

Hundreds of people gathered in Humboldt Sask. Sunday night to pay respects to the victims of the crash, which killed 15 people and injured 14.

While Matthieu Gomercic's mom told CBC News she isn't ready to speak publicly just yet, she confirmed the 20-year-old, who escaped with minor injuries, headed straight to the Humboldt arena upon his release.

He really wanted to be there, she said.

It's that kind of dedication that endeared Gomercic to Donna Mikkola. Her family billeted him for two years while he played for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Steinbach Pistons.

"Matthieu is awesome… every moment that he was here was precious," Mikkola said Monday from her home in Steinbach.

"He's not our son, I know, but we think of him as our son."

NOTE: On Monday morning, the Saskatchewan government issued a correction saying the coroner's office had mistakenly listed Xavier Labelle as one of those killed in the crash. He is, in fact, alive but injured. Parker Tobin is now listed among the dead. CBC's Susan Ormiston shares stories of survivors and victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 15 people. 6:56

Mikkola says they've had nine players stay with them over the years. Some stay temporarily while others, like Gomercic, become part of the family. The forward even has keys to the family's home and still stops by just to visit.

"He knows where the fridge is and he knows where his room is," said Mikkola.

'Just heart-wrenching'

Mikkola and her husband Dave had just finished watching Gomercic's former team, the Pistons, play the Virden Oil Capitals in the first round of the MJHL's finals in Steinbach, when they heard about crash.

Her daughter called to say she'd heard Gomercic had survived.

A bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team crashed into a truck en route to Nipawin, Sask., for a game Friday night killing 14 and sending over a dozen more to the hospital. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

"It was just such a tremendous relief but at the same time guilt," Mikkola said of getting the call.

"I'm so happy that Matt's alive but I feel guilty about being happy … because there's so many others that don't have that feeling of joy that their child made it.

"It was just heart-wrenching."

An emotional series

Mikkola spoke to Gomercic over the phone Saturday, and says she knows he'll need time to recover.

"This is something that is so traumatic; I think everybody's going to take more time than we can ever imagine to come to terms with everything," she said. 

Game two of the series between the Virden Oil Capitals and Steinbach Pistons was to be played Sunday in Virden, however the MJHL postponed the game. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

Game two between the Pistons and Oil Capitals was scheduled to be played Sunday night in Virden, but the MJHL decided to postpone the game out of respect for the Broncos. Today the MJHL announced the series will resume on April 12. 

Mikkola says the next game will be emotional.

"It really doesn't matter what team it is, if you're involved in hockey… they're playing the game they love and you just feel for everybody," she said.

"It could have happened anywhere to any team."

With files from Sean Kavanagh