Small Canadian town mourns victims of fatal bus collision
A hockey arena became the epicenter of grief for a small Canadian town Sunday as friends, relatives and those who housed members of a youth hockey team gathered to mourn 15 people killed Friday when a semi-trailer slammed into the team’s bus.
Fourteen also were injured, some critically, in a collision that left the country, its national sport and the hockey-obsessed town of Humboldt reeling.
The bus had 29 passengers, including the driver, when it crashed about 5 p.m. Friday on Highway 35, police said. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.
Residents of this town of less than 6,000 people have been leaving flowers, team jerseys and personal tributes on the steps of the arena’s entrance, forming a makeshift memorial. One tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favorite 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.”
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,” Locke said. “Down to earth, loved playing with the kids.”
His wife wiped away tears from swollen eyes.
Forwards Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan and defensemen 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 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.
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 neighbor housed player Morgan Gobeil. The defenseman was severely injured and remains in serious but stable condition, 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,” Mattock said.
The Broncos were a close-knit team who dyed their hair blond for the playoffs. Team President Kevin Garinger, who reported that one injured player had been released from the hospital, said the team will continue next year and won’t disband.
A vigil was scheduled for the hockey team’s home ice Sunday night, and a makeshift stage and hundreds of chairs sat ready for the memorial. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau planned to attend.