Canada 'heartbroken' after fatal Humboldt Bronco hockey bus crash

Condolences pour in after bus carrying junior hockey team collides with a truck in Canada's Saskatchewan province.

    Montreal, Canada - Condolences have poured in for a Canadian junior ice hockey team, after a road collision left at least 15 people dead and the country in mourning.

    A bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a truck in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan on Friday.

    At least 15 people were killed and 14 others were injured in the crash, including several of the team's young players and the head coach.

    "We are heartbroken and completely devastated by the tragedy," said Kevin Garinger, the team's president, during a press conference on Saturday.

    He said the team and the town of Humboldt, a small community of about 6,000 residents in central Canada, were left "stunned and grieving by this incomprehensible situation".

    The deadly crash left many people in shock across Canada, where hockey is a national past time and a widely beloved sport.

    A team jersey is seen among notes and flowers at a memorial for the Humboldt Broncos team leading into the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, Saskatchewan [Matt Smith/Reuters]

    Mourners left flowers at the local arena where the team plays its home games.

    "We see teams going out into the Canadian winters on buses all the time and it's always a thought in parents' and families' minds about what could happen," said Rob Muench, the mayor of Humboldt.

    "There is no play book on what to do in cases like this," he told reporters.

    Outpouring of support

    As news of what happened spread throughout local and national media outlets, people began donating money to support the players and the families that were affected.

    By late Saturday, more than 33,000 people had donated over $1.7m to an online fundraiser that had been up for less than 24 hours.

    Politicians, professional athletes, and people across Canada also voiced their support for the community and their heartbreak over what happened.

    Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, said the entire country was "in shock and mourning".

    "This is every parent's worst nightmare. No one should ever have to see their child leave to play the sport they love and never come back," he said in a statement.

    Trudeau also said he received a call from US President Donald Trump, who sent his condolences.

    Scott Moe, premier of Saskatchewan, urged all Canadians to support the families who lost someone. 

    Several National Hockey League teams donated money to the team in Humboldt.

    Some NHL players also sported the word "BRONCOS" on the backs of their jerseys during games on Saturday night.

    "I can't even imagine being the parent, or the wife, or the kids at home, going through something like this," Mike Babcock, the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, told local media.

    "You can't make up for loss. You just can't. It's got to rip the heart out of your chest," said Babcock, who grew up in Saskatchewan.

    Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medallist and former captain of Canada's national women's hockey team, said she didn't sleep after the news broke amid "waves of grief".

    "This is my province, these are our boys," she wrote on Twitter.

    Investigation ongoing

    The Broncos compete in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), a competitive "A" division league for players under age 21.

    The team was on the way to a playoff game when the crash occurred Friday evening.

    "The worst nightmare has happened," said Bill Chow, president of the SJHL, as he held back tears during Saturday's press conference.

    The RCMP, Canada's national police force, said the bus was carrying 29 passengers at the time of the crash.

    The exact cause of the collision is still under investigation and the identities of several of the victims have not been made public.

    All the players were from Western Canada, CBC News reported.

    Tom Straschnitzki's son, Ryan, was one of the players injured in the crash.

    "He's alive and breathing, and from what we know he has a broken back, and as of now, can't feel anything from his waist down," Straschnitzki told CBC News.

    "I think he's still in shock, still asking how everyone is and who perished and who didn't."

    The driver of the truck was not injured, the RCMP said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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