29 candles light up Humboldt arena during emotional 1-year memorial of Broncos bus crash

The Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, Sask., filled with people Saturday afternoon, commemorating one year since the community’s Junior A hockey team collided with a semi en route to a playoff game.

'We are all Broncos and will continue to be Humboldt Strong," said team president Jamie Brockman

As a way to pay homage to those in the crash, 29 candles were lit for all 29 people who were on board the bus on April 6, 2018. (Liam Richards/Postmedia)

A deep silence fell over the Elgar Petersen Arena on Saturday from 4:50 p.m. CST until 4:51 p.m — exactly one year after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. 

The memorial took place in Humboldt, Sask., where family, friends and supporters gathered to honour the lives lost and affected by the collision that left 16 people dead and 13 injured. 

As part of the service, 29 candles were lit in honour of everyone on the Junior A hockey team's bus when it collided with a truck on April 6, 2018.

Their names were read out loud as the candles were lit.

Mariko Boulet, sister of Logan Boulet who died shortly after the crash, took the podium as candlelight and cell phone flashlights could be seen around the arena.

"To the living, I am gone. To the sorrowful, I will never return. To the angry, I was cheated. But to the happy, I am at peace and to the faithful, I have never left," she said, reciting a poem titled Remember Me by Margaret Mead.

'Horrific change'

Pastor Sean Brandow, the Broncos' chaplain, addressed the crowd about how quickly life can change.

"It's incredible how much can change in a year, or in a month, or in a week, or a day, or even for that matter an instant," he said.

Family members wearing clothes with the names and jersey numbers of their loved ones lost or injured during the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last April could be seen during Saturday's memorial. (Liam Richards/Postmedia)

The community has witnessed "horrific change," he said, along with the "healing strength of young men who strove to get back on the ice, and teams and communities that wanted to rebuild."

Brandow finished by leading the crowd in prayer, asking for strength and resilience, and to remember those who died during the crash. 

'A milestone for everyone here'

Carol Brons, mother of Dayna Brons who was the Broncos' athletic therapist when she died after the crash, spoke on behalf of parents, alongside Celeste Leray-Leicht, mother of left-winger Jacob Leicht who died in the accident. 

"Today marks a milestone for everyone here," said Brons.

"Not a joyful milestone but one of perseverance, faith and courage."

She said, "We are not preachers, we are moms. And like many moms before us, we have lost a child."

She talked about how the crash sparked broader social change around mental health, transportation and education.

Celeste Leray-Leicht (left) and Carol Brons spoke on behalf of parents during Saturday's memorial. (Liam Richards/Postmedia)

"We all have the power to change, to create change. Please keep talking, continue to advocate for positive change. Good must continue to come from this," she said.

Leray-Leicht spoke about the importance of helping others.

"Be courageous, get help when you need it, offer help when you can. By helping others we begin to heal and find the courage to believe we will heal."

She said the one year anniversary is "meant to give everyone the permission to move forward in life with the blessings of our loved ones."

The pair then recognized first responders who attended the crash scene, as well as people who consoled families, helped players in the hospital and those who showed support throughout the ordeal.

A standing ovation ensued.

'Starting to see a glimmer of that light'

"April 6, 2018 is a day that we will never forget," Humboldt Mayor Rob Rob Muench told the crowd.

"It seems like just yesterday, but also at the same time, an eternity ago."

He spoke about a vigil held in the same arena two days after the crash.

It was an emotional night for those in attendance at Saturday's one year anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Liam Richards/Postmedia)

"We talked about being overcome by a darkness, but we also referred to a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

"I believe today, a year later, we are now starting to see a glimmer of that light."

He acknowledged everyone around the world who has showed support to the Broncos and their families, while commending the current Broncos players who were one goal away from making the playoff semi-finals this season.

"Humboldt does have heart and it will show as we move forward together through the end of this first year and into the light of the coming months and years."

'Things will never be the same'

Jamie Brockman, president of the Humoldt Broncos, spoke to the crowd after Muench, saying everyone would like to undo what happened a year ago.

"The reality is we cannot change the events of that day, or any day for that matter," he said,

"So many lives changed forever, our organization changed forever, our community changed forever. Things will never be the same."

He talked about how much support Humboldt has received.

"It is truly incredible and humbling," he said. "We are forever grateful for this."

He finished by saying, "We are all Broncos and will continue to be Humboldt Strong."

Letter from Kaleb  Dahlgren

A letter was also read on behalf of former Broncos player Kaleb Dahlgren, who now plays hockey for York University.

It was shared on Dahlgren's Twitter account and read aloud.

"It's 'Dahly' here," the post said, addressing his teammates who died.

"It hurts me looking through your Instagram pages and old video/photos of the memories we created as I know they radiate each of your personalities. It bothers me to see many people lost and grieving your absence ... Including myself"

It finished by saying, "Today, tomorrow, and forever, I will do everything in my power to honour all 16 of you brothers and sister. I will live my life to the fullest with you by my side. I love and miss you all sooo much."

A video message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also shown, offering a message of support and perseverance.

The service ended with Long Walker's Drum Group, an Indigenous drumming ensemble based in Saskatoon, playing Going Home Song, as the crowd left Elgar Petersen Arena.


Cory Coleman is a journalist for CBC Saskatchewan.

with files from Bridget Yard and Janani Whitfield


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