‘We will get through it’

Humboldt mayor Rob Muench speaks with the media about the Humboldt Broncos team bus crash at the city's Elgar Petersen Arena on April 7, 2018. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Humboldt community banding together after devastating Friday evening bus crash that killed 14

The Community of Humboldt and the Humboldt Broncos family are banding together in the wake of a deadly Friday night crash involving the team bus that killed 14 and sent 15 more to the hospital.

The collision occurred at around 5 p.m. Friday evening. The RCMP said a semi-truck was driving westbound on Highway 335 and the bus was travelling northbound on Highway 35 when the two collided.

The driver of the truck is not physically injured. The status of the bus driver is unknown at this time. In a Saturday afternoon press conference, the RCMP said it is too early to determine what caused the collision, though factors such as speed, road conditions and alcohol are always investigated in a serious collision.

“This is a very involved investigation, and due to the large amount of evidence, information and victims, this will take some time,” said Saskatchewan RCMP assistance commissioner Curtis Zablocki.

He said there was a “tremendous” RCMP response to the collision, with over 50 officers attending the scene. That’s unprecedented in Saskatchewan, he said.

For those in the Humboldt community, questions of hockey are on hold as the community rallies to support those impacted by the tragedy. That includes families of the players, as well as billet families, friends and others who knew the young athletes on that bus.

Broncos team president Kevin Garinger said the organization is doing everything in its power to support the families, including the billet families.

“On behalf of the entire broncos family, our deepest sympathies go out to the injured, deceased and all their loved ones. We are heart broken and extremely devastated,” he said.

Humboldt Broncos team president Kevin Garinger, left, and assistant general manager Jason Neville address the media on April 7, 2018 at Humboldt’s Elgar Petersen Arena a day after the team’s bus was involved in fatal collision with a semi-truck. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

“While we try to move forward as an organization and community, we will never forget April 6 2018, and the members of our broncos family taken from us and injured. While we are stunned and grieving … we must come together to comfort, support and lean on one another. We will persevere, and we will honour the souls who are lost.”

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League president Bill Chow was visibly shaken as he took the podium.

“I don’t have a lot to say,” he said while fighting back tears, “other than the worst nightmare has happened. As a league, we will support the Humboldt Broncos every way possible.”

He said questions about how the rest of the season will be answered later, as conversations are undertaken with the Broncos and the league. The Broncos were on the way to Nipawin to play Game 5 when the bus was involved in the crash. Game 5 was cancelled, and the time slot for Game 6, scheduled for Sunday evening in Humboldt, will be used for a vigil instead.

An emotional Rob Muench, Humboldt’s mayor, called on the community to band together, while thanking the outside world for all the support that’s been offered.

“This is a truly dark moment for our city, our community and our province,” he said.

“We’re a small town and we’re overwhelmed with the outpouring of condolences we’ve received from the province, beyond our borders and internationally.”

Muench said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had called to pass on his condolences, as well as those of other world leaders, including US President Donald Trump.

He said people everywhere could relate to the pain the community is feeling, as across the country, teens go out into Canadian winters on buses all the time.

“It’s always a thought in parents’ and families’ minds about what could happen — and unfortunately has happened.

“There is no playbook on what to do in cases like this.”

Muench asked for support in the coming days, weeks, months and years it will take for the community to heal and get through this. He thanked the first responders and the citizens of Nipawin for their assistance.

“We will get through it,” he said.

“I’m asking everyone here to stick together, to support each other, and to do what you can (for) anyone you know who is hurting in this time of grief. Don’t be afraid to reach out.”