‘Our organization will never be the same’
TISDALE, Saskakatchewan- Saskatchewan’s Star Phoenix reports fourteen people were killed Friday when the bus they were in — carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team — collided with a semi-trailer unit north of Tisdale.
Fourteen others on the bus were injured, three critically.
The RCMP is not confirming the identity of the victims at this time, including whether the deceased are players or coaches. There was no immediate word on the driver of the semi.
Parents and family seeking information about their family members who may have been in this collision can call 306-752-8700.
The father of player Derek Patter, who survived the crash, shared an image of his son and two other players in the hospital.
The collision happened at about 5 p.m. Friday on Highway 35 about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, about halfway into the Bronco’s trip to Nipawin from Humboldt for Game 5 of their Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) semifinal series against the Nipawin Hawks. Nipawin is about 265 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
“It’s disbelief. It’s shock. The deepest grief that you can ever imagine,” a stunned Kevin Garinger said late Friday night, while driving home to Humboldt from Swift Current.
Garinger is the president of the Humboldt Broncos as well as the local school division’s director of education. He said he was in shock, and struggling to make sense of a terrible tragedy.
“Our organization will never be the same,” Garinger said of the hockey club he loves, one he said aspired to make not only good hockey players but also good young men as well.
“Our thoughts and prayers — everything we have in terms of our energy is directed toward trying to deal with, cope with the loss that’s occurred here,” he said.
Many people have gathered at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt. Sobs could be heard breaking out in pockets as people received news of friends and loved ones on their phones. Others gathered around them, offering tight hugs.
Tim Klimosko, former Broncos assistant coach and long-time Humboldt resident, says it will take the town a long time to recover. But the gathering says much about the town, he said.
Darren Opp, president of the Hawks, said a semi T-boned the Humboldt players’ bus.
“It’s a horrible accident, my God,” he said. “It’s very, very bad.”
Opp said the coaching staff and players from the Hawks are waiting to help.
“They are sitting in the church just waiting to hear any good news,” he said. “I’ve got 50 phone calls at least saying what do you want?
“There’s uncles and moms and dads waiting to hear whether their sons and nephews are OK.
“It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible.”
A motorist who passed the scene sent a photo of the crash site to The StarPhoenix.
Saskatchewan Heath Authority spokeswoman Jennifer Lyons said Friday night that the organization is in a “code orange,” meaning casualties are incoming to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Lyons said additional information was not immediately available.
Myles Shumlanski, father of Broncos player Nick Shumlanski, said he got a call from his son and they picked him up.
“It’s only a quarter-mile from our house,” he said.
“There are casualties and it’s very bad. We were at the scene helping,” Shumlanski said.
Shumlanski said that his son is being flown to Saskatoon after receiving treatment at a hospital in Tisdale.
Pastor Jordan Gadsby at the Apostolic Church in Nipawin welcomed any families to come to the church at 109 Fourth Avenue East.
“We just opened our building here with food and drinks … they can come if they need somewhere to go or someone to talk to,” he said. “There’s not a lot of confirmed information at this point. Families are just waiting to hear from their kids.
Derek Grayson and Nick bonding and healing in hospital pic.twitter.com/DzesIoT27B
— R J patter (@rjpatter) April 7, 2018
“There’s a lot of tears.”
The Nipawin Hawks said on Facebook the game was cancelled.
“The accident being talked about involved Humboldt team bus. We ask during this time that you don’t send messages. When more information is given we will update,” the Hawks posted on Friday evening.
Nipawin RCMP said in a news release at 6 p.m. that traffic is expected to be blocked or restricted for several hours.
“For those travelling in the area, please use extreme caution around emergency personnel. If at all possible, drivers are asked to avoid the area,” RCMP said.