HUMBOLDT, Sask. — A memorial service held Saturday to mark one year since the Humboldt Broncos tragedy was to include a moment of silence at 4:50 p.m. — the exact time of the deadly crash.
Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured after the Saskatchewan hockey team's bus collided with a semi driven by a novice trucker who had blown a stop sign at a rural intersection.
The crash struck a chord with hockey-loving Canadians and moved people around the world to put hockey sticks on their front porches in solidarity with the Humboldt community. More than $15 million was also donated from people in more than 80 countries for the victims' families.
"These boys have had their year and they are in heaven or skating with Jesus, I guess," said Karen Rafael, a first responder who helped at the horrific crash scene last April 6.
She returned to the crossing of Highways 35 and 335 on Saturday to pay her respects and wipe falling snow off pictures and mementoes left among wooden crosses.
A steady line of vehicles stopped at the site, and many people wearing hockey jerseys got out to pray or lay flowers.
Jeremy Collyer of Brandon, Man. arrived with a group of hockey parents before going to watch their children play a championship game in nearby Tisdale, Sask.
"It really hits home," he said.
"We all have kids in hockey. And you know, it's funny— you always hear you're one big family. And it's true."
The memorial service was being held at the Humboldt arena, where rows of yellow banners hang above the main entrance with the names of all 29 people who were on the bus that day.
Premier Scott Moe said he was attending the service with his wife, and a spokeswoman from the Prime Minister's Office said a video message would be played from Justin Trudeau.
In a statement Saturday, Trudeau thanked first responders for their courage and professionalism in the aftermath of the crash, while praising Humboldt for its resilience.
"When we think of Humboldt, we cannot forget pictures of the wreckage — but what will stay in our hearts forever are images of compassion and strength: players clasping hands, united, in the hospital ward; young men learning to stand, walk, and take to the ice again; hockey sticks leaned up against thousands of Canadian front doors," the prime minister said.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Saturday also noted the strength of the community and the outpouring of support from across the country.
"As a parent and a Saskatchewanian, I still find myself without adequate words to capture how this tragedy has been felt by our province, and our nation," he said in a statement. "A year may have dulled the sharpness of the pain, but no passage of time can change the depth of our sorrow."
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary was sentenced last month to eight years for dangerous driving causing death and bodily injury. Court heard he was an inexperienced driver travelling for the first time in the area.
The three prairie provinces have since made training mandatory for commercial truck drivers and an entry-level national training standard is to be in place next year.
Trudeau also noted in his statement that the federal government plans to make it mandatory, as of September 2020, for all new medium and large highway buses to have seatbelts for passengers.