A hockey arena became the epicentre of grief for a small Canadian town, as friends and relatives gathered to mourn 15 people killed after a semi-trailer slammed into a bus carrying a youth hockey team in western Canada.
Fourteen were also injured, some critically, in a collision that left a country, its national sport and the hockey-obsessed town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, reeling.
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.
Residents of this town of less than 6000 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 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.”
The bus was driving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team to a crucial play-off game on Friday against the Nipawin Hawks.
Forward Jaxon Joseph, who is the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph, along with forward Logan Hunter and defencemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold and Xavier Labelle were among the dead, according to family members and others. 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 play-off round when the Pat Canadians’ season wrapped up, said John Smith, the Pat Canadians’ manager.
The names of all the dead and injured have not been released by police.
Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not hurt, was initially detained but has since been released and provided with mental health assistance.
Photographs of the wreckage showed the twisted trailer with most of its wheels in the air and the bus on its side with its back portion destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.
Aerial footage showed the roof of the bus 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 tractor-trailer 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 southeast corner of the intersection, limiting visibility of the approach on both roads.
Police said a lot of issues have to be investigated, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles.