Humboldt grapples with Broncos tragedy

The Humboldt community continues to cope with the horrific tragedy of April 6 when a semi-trailer collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team to Nipawin.

The Broncos were on their  way to play the fifth game of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League semifinals against the Nipawin Hawks when the crash occurred near the junction of Highways 35 and 335.

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Accident at intersection

The collision happened when a semi-trailer heading west on Highway 335 hit the bus heading north on Highway 35 around 5 p.m. April 6.

The driver of the semi-trailer was not injured and was arrested by the RCMP as they conducted their investigation. He was later released.

Initially 14 on the bus were confirmed dead and 15 were injured – with three in critical condition. As of 3 p.m. April 7, RCMP said they were notified of another death.

Police have not confirmed any names.

The RCMP said it was too early to say what caused the collision or to determine whether any charges will be laid.

Police said they had specialized investigators and collision reconstructionists on scene and will continue to investigate.

Immediate aftermath

Humboldt community members gathered at the Elgar Peterson Arena on April 6 night to share their grief and wait for news. As information trickled in, people reacted with shock and emotion.

Victim Services and a crisis support team were at the arena all weekend to help.

In Nipawin, fans of both teams stood around the Centennial Arena, not knowing what had happened or what do to. The Hawks’ game day co-ordinator asked Jordan Gadsby, the pastor at the Nipawin Apostolic Church, if people could gather there.

“From there, it turned into the spot for people to come for waiting for information or not wanting to be alone,” Gadsby said.

The pastor said hundreds of people, including fans of both teams, entered and exited the church during the course of the night.

“It was a lot of waiting,” he said. “Part of the night was sitting with parents who didn’t know if their kids were alive or not.”

Gadsby said the reaction of the Nipawin community was awesome, with the Pineland Co-op and No Frills bringing food and drink, daycares sending staff and supplies, pizzas showing up due to orders from the town’s residents and phone calls offering places to stay.

The hockey rivalry between the towns didn’t matter when something like this happens, the pastor said.

“You care for each other and sometimes caring looks like sitting beside someone and crying together.”

A morning to remember 

The next morning, just after 10 a.m., Humboldt firefighters lowered to half-mast the large flag on the east side of town, just off Highway 5.

The Elgar Peterson Arena opened early Saturday and remained open all day as a gathering place for people coping with the tragedy. Flowers and messages have been laid out on the arena’s steps as an impromptu memorial.

Helping out

People everywhere have been offering help to Humboldt Broncos and the community.

Among the offerings is a GoFundMe page created to help the team that has raised $2.1 million in less than 24 hours. The money will first go to the Broncos hockey organization and then be sent on to the families.

In Saskatoon, former NHL player Colby Armstrong’s mother offered her home after a Broncos player’s mother tweeted that her son was on his way to a hospital in the city.

A Saskatoon Millennium Lions Club member called the Journal saying he wanted to help families who might need accommodations. Anyone wanting more information can contact the Journal office. The club will also make a donation directly to the Broncos organization and challenging other Lions Clubs to do the same.

The Canalta hotel chain offered accommodations to those wanting to be near the hospital in their Humboldt, Tisdale and Martensville locations.

Worldwide attention 

The accident has received worldwide attention.

Among many other news agencies, the New York Times, Fox News, Sportsnet and the Guardian out of the United Kingdom have reported on the tragedy.

In Humboldt, Global News, CTV News, TSN and the CBC all had crews at the Uniplex.

The reaction has been especially intense in the sports community, with teams from across North America sending their thoughts and prayers to the Broncos and the Humboldt community.

An emotional Mike Babcock, head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, talked to Sportsnet about the crash.

Babcock grew up in Saskatoon, “just up the road.”

“The hockey world is an unbelievable world,” he said. “You can’t make up for loss. You just can’t.”

Condolences have poured in from all over the world, including tweets from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks announced they would be honouring the Broncos at tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

According to the Blackhawks both teams will wear “Broncos” on the backs of their jerseys in place of the players’ last names.

The Blackhawks also announced they would be matching a $25,000 donation made to the Broncos from both the Jets and the NHL.

The Jets, whose radio play-by-play personality is Humboldt native Brian Munz, also changed their logo, switching from a blue and white colour scheme to a green and gold one.

Vigil to be held

A prayer vigil organized by the Humboldt Ministerial Association will be held at 7 pm on Sunday, April 8 at the Elgar Peterson Arena.

Rev. Matteo Carboni of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church said the service will include scripture readings and a sermon, as well as musical performances that will include local artists Araba Quaye and Murray Pilgrim. The service is open to all.

The Nipawin Apostolic Church will also host a candlelight vigil at the same time.

Call for unity 

City of Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench called for the Humboldt community to stick together and support each other.

“There is no play book on what to do in a case like this, and we’re asking for everyone’s support and consideration in the coming days and weeks and months and years,” he said at the Saturday afternoon press conference. “We will get through it."

The world responds

Messages from around the world offered support to the Humboldt community and the Broncos.

Sports

La Ronge Ice Wolves, on Twitter:

Our  hearts go out to the players, coaching staff, billets, families and fans of  @HumboldtBroncos.  Our hockey family is hoping and praying for you all tonight. #prayersforhumboldt"

Philadelphia Flyers president Paul Holmgren on Twitter:

[We’re]  devastated to learn of the tragedy involving members of the Humboldt Broncos junior ice hockey team. This news is truly heartbreaking, not only for the entire hockey world, but for an entire community of parents, family and friends. Out thoughts and prayers are with these players, and all those who have been affected.

Winnipeg Jets Changed their twitter name to #PrayersForHumboldt. From Head Coach Paul Maurice:

On behalf of Mark Chipman and David Thompson, and our entire Winnipeg Jets family, fans included, we would like to offer our deepest sympathies, condolences, and prayers to the Humboldt Broncos and their whole family.

Hockey Night in Canada on Twitter:

Hockey stands with you.

USA Hockey on Twitter:

USA Hockey sends its deepest condolences to the Humboldt Broncos, the families and the entire Humboldt community. The hockey world is behind you.

National Hockey League on Twitter:

We send condolence, comfort and strength to all affected by the devastating crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus.

SportsCentre, from Twitter: Statement from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman regarding the Humboldt Broncos tragedy:

"Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community who have been affected by the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. The NHL mourns the passing of those who perished and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they all love."

Women’s professional ice hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser on Twitter:

Can’t even breathe. @HumboldtBroncos you are in my prayers. My worst fear as a player and parent. God bless all involved.

Toronto Blue Jays on Twitter:
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and community of the Humboldt Broncos. From our family to yours, we send our condolences and hearts during this difficult time.

Boston Bruins on Twitter:

Our hearts are heavy this morning. The Boston Bruins send our thoughts and deepest condolences to the Humboldt Broncos, their families, and the entire Humboldt community. The hockey world is with you during this difficult time.

Toronto Raptors on Twitter:

Thinking of the Humboldt Broncos and our friends in the hockey community at this terrible time. From Toronto to the Prairies, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Elite Ice Hockey League: Moment's silence then applause being observed for the tragedy involving Humboldt Broncos.

Saskatoon Valkyries on Twitter:

Our thoughts are with the entire @HumboldtBroncos organization and its friends and family, and the city of Humboldt.

Regina Riot Football on Twitter:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the #HumboldtBroncos - the players, their families and friends, the driver, medical and emergency personnel. Our hearts hurt for you. #PrayersForHumboldt #HumboldtStrong
 
Also seen on Twitter were tweets of condolences from the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Toronto Raptors, the Ottawa Redblacks, the Calgary Stampeders and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Politics

Prime  Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter:

I  cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond."

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on Twitter:

Words cannot describe the loss that we feel tonight. From a grieving province, thank you to first responders & medical professionals for courageous response under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Tonight, we all must pray for these families.

Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback, from Facebook, retweeted by Carleton Trail-Eagle Creek MP Kelly Block:

My thoughts and prayers and those of our whole community are with the players of the Humboldt Broncos, their families and team organization. Thank you to the emergency workers who responded to this unimaginable... Thank you to the emergency workers who responded to this unimaginable tragedy. Our province and country are grieving tonight.  #PrayersforHumboldt

Conservative Party of Canada leader, Andrew Scheer on Twitter:

On behalf of Canada’s Conservatives, I offer my deepest condolences to the Humboldt Broncos organization, their family and friends, as well as all Saskatchewanians touched by this terrible tragedy.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale on Twitter:

Major motor vehicle collision in Saskatchewan tonight is truly devastating. Sincere condolences to families and friends of the victims. First responders are on the scene doing everything possible to help. Love + prayers to all.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter:

Just spoke to @JustinTrudeau to pay my highest respect and condolences to the families of the terrible Humboldt Team tragedy. May God be with them all!

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Twitter:

Laureen and I are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic accident that took place in Saskatchewan. We extend our deepest condolences to the Humboldt Broncos organization; the families of those affected and the entire community are in our prayers during this very difficult time.

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford on Twitter:

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Humboldt Broncos, their community, families and friends. Such a terrible loss.

Other

Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter:

My heart breaks this morning for the entire Humboldt Broncos community. I am sending so much love to everyone affected.

Kids Help Phone Retweeted Scott Moe and added:

Our hearts are with everyone impacted by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to the families & communities involved. Kids Help Phone encourages young people affected by the tragedy to seek support. Our counsellors are available 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868.

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