New Brunswick

'We stand strong behind them': Bathurst, N.B., mayor offers support to Humboldt

The Humboldt Broncos tragedy has brought back memories of Bathurst's Boys in Red loss, says that town's mayor.

Saskatchewan hockey team tragedy brings back memories of Boys in Red loss in Bathurst, N.B.

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie said Bathurst is standing strong with the community of Humboldt, Saskatchewan. (Radio-Canada)

Bathurst's mayor says when he heard the news Saturday morning that 14 people had been killed and 14 others injured after the Humboldt Broncos bus was hit by a semi-trailer, it brought back memories of his city's Boys in Red tragedy. 

On Jan. 12, 2008, seven high school basketball players — remembered as the Boys In Red — and their coach's wife died when their 15-passenger van collided with a transport truck.

On Friday, a junior hockey team was travelling from Humboldt, Saskatchewan to Nipawin for Game 5 of the SJHL semifinal series. The team's bus collided with a semi-trailer about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, Sask.

This roadside memorial for the Boys in Red is a reminder of the tragedy that occurred 10 years ago in New Brunswick.
Mayor Paolo Fongemie said his phone was full of messages from people in the city, and from away, that referred to the horrific accident 10 years ago. 

"We share the sorrow and the pain that their community is going through right now. At first, it's the unreal sentiment that that's not ... that the accident didn't happen, it's not possible to have that type of tragedy," he said. 

"Then, when it sinks in, it's the importance of the whole community being strong together and supporting the family, the billets, the teammates and the whole community." 

In offering words of sympathy and encouragement to the community of Humboldt, Fongemie said with time you learn to deal with the pain. 

"It never leaves. I think it's the strong knitted community of Humboldt that will allow them to move forward one day at a time." 

"We stand strong behind them ... the city of Bathurst in this most difficult of times."   

Still grieving 10 years later

Stephen Brunet was the mayor of Bathurst when the Boys in Red tragedy occurred taking the lives of basketball players Javier Acevedo, Codey Branch, Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Daniel Hains, Nicholas Kelly, Nickolas Quinn and the coach's' wife, Elizabeth Lord. 

Brunet said the grief Humboldt is experiencing is well understood in Bathurst. "It's a terrible thing to have happened." 

The former mayor said the Boys in Red tragedy will never leave the community or himself.

"There are still members of those families that are grieving here 10 years later." 

Former Bathurst Mayor Stephen Brunet said the grief Humboldt is experiencing is well understood in Bathurst. (CBC)
Brunet said after living through an experience like this, he encourages the leadership of the town to be there for the parents and families in anyway they could. 

"Provide a meeting place for the families. Provide a place for the young people of the community and keep that going, bringing the community together for them."

Brunet recalled the Bathurst community provided strong support for the families and youth in the days, weeks and months after the tragedy. 

"They still do and the only way to do that is to talk and to listen to the families. The only healer here will be time. Right now the emotions will be very strong. There will be anger, there will be extreme grief. It will be all over the map." 

Brunet offered his help to Humboldt, saying he is available to help, if needed. 

Premier Brian Gallant also offered the province's support as he expressed his sympathy. 

"We'll certainly offer anything that we can do to help them get through this and learn from the events. Certainly, we had events that were fairly similar happen here in New Brunswick, but right now I know that they're just trying to get through the next few hours and days, and our thoughts are with everybody in Saskatchewan."