A truck slammed into a bus carrying a youth hockey team in western Canada, killing 15 people and injuring 14 in a catastrophic collision that one doctor compared to an airstrike.
- The bus was carrying junior hockey team to a game when it collided with a truck
- The truck driver was not hurt and was initially detained by police before being released
- The hockey team’s coach and 20-year-old captain are among those killed
The crash sent shockwaves through the team’s small hometown and a country united by the national sport.
Canadians were moved to tears on Saturday as they learned of the identities of the deceased on the bus that was driving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team to a crucial playoff game Friday against the Nipawin Hawks.
“An entire country is in shock and mourning,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
“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.”
There were 29 people on board the bus when it was T-boned by a semi-trailer about 5:00pm on Friday (local time), leaving both vehicles obliterated in the snow.
Hassan Masri, an emergency room doctor at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital who has done work in war-torn Syria, said the crash reminded him of an airstrike.
President of the Nipawin Hawks hockey team, Darren Opp, said it was a horrible accident.
“There’s uncles and moms and dads waiting to hear whether their sons and nephews are OK,” Mr Opp said.
“They are sitting in the church just waiting to hear any good news.”
A photo posted to the team’s Twitter feed on March 24 after a playoff win. (Supplied: Humboldt Broncos)
The deaths of the team’s head coach, Darcy Haugan, and captain, 20-year-old Logan Schatz, have been confirmed by relatives.
Radio announcer Tyler Bieber, who gave play-by-plays for the team’s games, was also killed.
Michelle Straschnitzki said her 18-year old son Ryan was transported to hospital.
“We talked to him, but he said he couldn’t feel his lower extremities so I don’t know what’s going on,” Ms Straschnitzki said.
“I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates and I am losing my mind.”
The truck driver was not hurt.
Canadian police said the driver was initially detained but has since been released and provided with mental health assistance.
The force of the crash sent both vehicles into a ditch at the north-west corner of the intersection.
Aerial footage of the wreckage showed the bus on its side, its roof peeled back and its front end destroyed.
The trailer of the truck lay nearby in a shattered mess, with bags of its peat moss cargo scattered all around.
The tractor part of the truck was intact, lying on its passenger side.
The truck would have had to yield to a stop sign before crossing over the highway that the hockey bus was travelling on.
There is a stand of trees on the south-east corner of the intersection, limiting visibility of the approach on both roads.
Police said a lot of issues had to be investigated, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles.
Team President Kevin Garinger said parents from across western Canada were struggling to cope with the tragedy and were rushing to the scene.
“Our whole community is in shock, we are grieving and we will continue to grieve throughout this ordeal as we try to work toward supporting each other,” Mr Garinger said.
Kevin Henry, a coach who runs a hockey school in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, said he knows players on the team.
“This is, I would think, one of the darkest days in the history of Saskatchewan, especially because hockey is so ingrained in how we grow up here,” Mr Henry said.