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Justin Trudeau attends vigil to mourn 15 killed in ice hockey team bus crash

The Canadian prime minister also visited the injured in hospital.

Flowers lie on the ice as people gather for a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
Flowers lie on the ice as people gather for a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has attended a vigil to mourn 15 people killed after a lorry crashed into a bus carrying a youth hockey team.

Fourteen were also injured, some critically, in a collision that has devastated the town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan.

The bus had 29 passengers, including the driver, when it crashed at about 5pm on Friday on Highway 35, police said. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

Mr Trudeau also visited the injured in hospital on Sunday and then attended the vigil held in the town’s arena. Mr Trudeau sat among the crowd with his 11-year-old son, Xavier, a hockey player.

Team president Kevin Garinger choked back tears as he read out the names of the 15 dead.

People embraced each other, while flowers ringed the team logo at the centre of the ice and pictures were laid out of the dead and injured.

Humboldt paster Sean Brandow said he was on his way to the Broncos game on Friday and arrived at the scene right after the collision.

“I walked up and saw a scene I never want to see again, heard sounds I never want to hear again,” he said.

Residents of this town of less than 6,000 people earlier left flowers, jerseys and personal tributes on the steps of the arena’s entrance. One tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favourite meal of deceased forward Evan Thomas. A bouquet of pink roses adorned the box, which read: “to Evan, game day special, love your billet brother and sister Colten and Shelby.”

Photos of people involved in a fatal bus crash are seen prior to a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

While most of the players were from elsewhere in western Canada, they were put up by families in the small town of Humboldt. Billeting families are a large part of junior hockey, with players spending years with host families.

Dennis Locke, his wife and three young children came to the arena to hang posters of forward Jaxon Joseph, who was the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph. The Locke family hosted Joseph and treated him like a son.

“Best person ever,” Mr Locke said. “Down to earth, loved playing with the kids.”

Forwards Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan and defencemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold, Logan Boulet and Xavier Labelle were also among the dead, according to family members and others. Assistant coach Mark Cross, bus driver Glen Doerksen and stats keeper Brody Hinz, who was 18, were also killed.

Herold, who would have turned 17 on Thursday, played for the Regina Pat Canadians hockey team until just weeks ago, but was sent to join the Broncos for their playoff round when the Pat Canadians’ season wrapped up, said John Smith, the Pat Canadians’ manager.

Mourners embrace each other at the vigil at the home of the Humboldt Broncos (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

As the names of the dead emerge, “it’s getting harder and harder,” Humboldt mayor Rob Muench said. “This is going to be a long haul for us.”

Norman Mattock, a longtime season ticket holder, said his neighbour housed player Morgan Gobeil. The defenceman was severely injured and remains in serious but stable condition, Mr Mattock said.

He said players become part of the community fabric, doing volunteer work or serving in restaurants. Three players who stayed with the same family all died in the crash, he added.

“They lost them all,” Mr Mattock said.

The Broncos were a close-knit team who dyed their hair blonde for the playoffs. The bus was driving the team to a crucial playoff game on Friday against the Nipawin Hawks.

Mr Garinger, who reported that one injured player had been released from the hospital, said the team will continue next year and will not disband.

Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not hurt, was initially detained but later released and provided with mental health assistance.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said it was too early to state a cause for the crash.

Photographs of the wreckage showed the twisted trailer with most of its wheels in the air and the bus on its side with a portion destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph