‘One of the darkest days in the history of Saskatchewan’ as 14 die in bus crash

Taking to Twitter, Rhonda Clarke Tobin wrote that a young man called Parker – believed to be her son – was being hospitalised. She posted: “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever had to make. Parker is stable at the moment and being airlifted to Saskatoon hospital. “Thank you all for your kind words and messages.” She added: “Please continue to pray for his Humboldt family.” Replying to her post, Derek’s father told her: “Hope to see you there. Derek is also stable and being airlifted to Saskatoon.” It was about four hours later that he shared the image from hospital. The Broncos’ team bus was carrying 28 people, including the driver, as it travelled to the scheduled match against the Nipawin Hawks.

Police are not confirming the identities of the 14 people who died at this time, but it is feared many of the victims were junior players. It is unclear whether the truck driver suffered any injuries. Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan was among those killed in the tragedy, according to his sister, who broke the news on Twitter. She posted: “My brother didn’t make it”, adding that he was her “hero”.

Darcy’s grieving niece Sarah also took to the social network to pay tribute to her uncle, who “loved people and loved his family”. She wrote: “His loss will affect so many. Until I see you again, Uncle Darcy forever Humboldt Broncos head coach.” Distraught parents were left desperately waiting for news about their kids following the “terrible accident” at around 5pm local time.

One heartbroken mum, Michelle Straschnitzki, said her son, Ryan Straschnitzki, had been hospitalised and couldn’t feel his lower body. Speaking to Global News via phone, she said: “He’s groggy and he’s got, apparently, lower body issues… he can’t feel the lower body.” She added: “It was a horrific crash and it was devastating.” The team were on their way to play the Hawks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) at the time of the disaster yesterday. The players are thought to be aged between 16 and 21 years old. In a statement, the Broncos said: “The Humboldt Broncos organization has experienced incredible tragedy. While en route to Nipawin, the Broncos bus was involved in a terrible accident which has resulted in multiple fatalities and serious injuries.”

Team president, Kevin Garinger, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the families of our staff and athletes as well as to all who have been impacted by this horrible tragedy. Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss.” The collision occurred on the highway, around 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, as the Broncos were about halfway into their journey.

It sparked a major response from the emergency services, with three air ambulances dispatched to help dozens of police and ambulances on the ground. Early this morning, the Nipawin Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) confirmed 28 people were on the bus, 14 of whom were killed. The other 14 were sent to hospital with “a variety of injuries”, the force said. Three of these victims were in a critical condition.

The RCMP said in a statement: “We are not confirming the identity of the victims at this time, including whether the deceased are players or coaches. “We will be working with our partner agencies to ensure families are notified as soon as possible and the appropriate supports are provided to families and others who are impacted by this extremely tragic incident.” Following the tragedy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retweeted a message of condolence from his Minister of Safety. He added: “I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Scott Moe, premier of the Saskatchewan region, said yesterday: “Words can not describe the loss that we feel tonight. “From a grieving province, thank you to first responders & medical professionals for courageous response under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. “Tonight, we all must pray for these families.” A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the victims’ relatives. So far, nearly $40,000 has already been raised. The Broncos had been due to play Game 5 of their SJHL semifinal series against the Hawks when they were involved in the smash.

In a statement on Facebook last night, the Hawks posted: “Tonight’s game is Cancelled. The accident being talked about involved Humboldt team bus. We ask during this time that you don’t send messages. “When more information is given we will update.” The team’s president, Darren Opp, told The Globe and Mail: “It’s a horrible accident, my God… it’s very, very bad.” He added: “There’s uncles and moms and dads waiting to hear whether their sons and nephews are OK. “It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible.”

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