The bus was carrying a junior hockey team when it collided with a tractor-trailer Friday evening, according to police. Fifteen people were killed and at least 14 others injured.
Jaxon Joseph, the 20-year-old son of former NHL player Chris Joseph, is among the dead, according to Jaxon’s uncle, Mike Joseph, who told Sportsnet he found out Saturday his nephew had died.
Chris Joseph used to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the team expressed sadness about the news on Twitter. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to Pittsburgh Penguins alumnus Chris Joseph, whose son, Jaxon, was among those who tragically passed away in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident.”
Jaxon’s former teammates on the Surrey Eagles told CNN broadcast partner CBC that he’d be missed.
“He was just a hardworking guy,” said Jackson Ross. “He always had a smile on his face. It was contagious, I’d say.”
Cause of the crash is being investigated
The crash occurred around 5 p.m. Friday north of Tisdale, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as the team was headed for the town of Nipawin for a playoff game. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said the tractor-trailer, traveling west on Highway 335, collided with the bus, which was traveling north on Highway 35.
Three of the injured are in critical condition, according to the RCMP. Authorities have yet to identify the victims. Twenty-nine people were on the bus.
The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured in the collision, Zablocki said. He was initially detained but was later released, and he is not currently the subject of a criminal investigation.
“Our investigators will be looking at all aspects of this accident to determine what took place,” Zablocki said. “It’s too early to comment on the cause of the collision.”
The Humboldt team was scheduled to play the Nipawin Hawks in the fifth game of a best-of-seven semifinal playoff series Friday. The teams played a lengthy game Wednesday that Nipawin won 6-5 in three overtimes in Humboldt, leaving Nipawin with a 3-1 series lead.
Two broadcasting employees among the dead
Logan Schatz, a 20-year-old team captain and Saskatchewan native, was also killed, his father, Kelly Schatz, told The Canadian Press.
Family members were comforting each other during this difficult time, Schatz said.
A website for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League said Schatz had been named player of the month in February.
Two employees of local radio station Bolt FM who were traveling with the team also lost their lives, according to DiscoverHumboldt.com. Both the website and the radio station belong to parent company Golden West Broadcasting.
The site confirmed that play-by-play announcer Tyler Bieber and Brody Hinz were killed.
“It is with great sadness that we have learned both Tyler and Brody were victims of this tragedy,” said Lyndon Friesen, the president of Golden West Radio, a subsidiary of Golden West Broadcasting, in a statement. Bieber traveled with the team often, and Hinz had just recently joined the company.
Pain felt far and wide
The tragedy was felt across Canada, where hockey is the dominant sport and many young players take long bus rides to tournaments.
Humboldt, a town of about 6,000, has a long tradition of fielding teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The players, ranging in age from 16 to 21, come from different parts of Canada and stay with host families during the season, according to the team’s website.
“Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss,” Kevin Garinger, the team’s president, said in a statement.
The hockey community and others rallied around the victims and their families after news of the crash, offering financial assistance.
Expressions of support poured in, much of them focused on a Twitter photo that showed three injured players grasping each other’s hands while lying in hospital beds.
By Sunday morning, a GoFundMe page for the players and their families had raised more than $3.2 million, the result of nearly 50,000 donations.
Many of those donations purportedly came from the hockey community. NHL teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins gave money, as did hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer Hockey, which shared a link to the GoFundMe on its Twitter account.
Friday’s crash brought back memories of another highway accident that claimed the lives of hockey players in Saskatchewan. In 1986, four members of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League died in a crash in the western part of the province, CNN partner CBC reported.
NHL, Trudeau offer condolences
Members of the National Hockey League expressed sadness over the news.
“We sent condolence, comfort and strength to all affected by the devastating crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus,” the National Hockey League said on Twitter.
Cam Talbot, a goalie for the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL, tweeted: “After all the hours spent on a bus with the boys over the years this one really hits home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities affected by this horrible tragedy. #PrayersForHumboldt”
“I can’t imagine being the parent or the wife or the kids at home going through something like this,” Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said at a press conference. “It hurts.”
On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump offered condolences on Twitter.