10 hockey players, 5 others dead as a result of fatal bus crash, police say
More details about the victims of a deadly bus crash in Canada’s Saskatchewan province emerged Sunday, days after the tragic accident rocked their small community and the larger hockey world.
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.
On Sunday evening, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Office of the Chief Coroner released the full list of those who perished in the crash. Ten Humboldt Broncos players and 5 others, including two coaches, died, the release said.
Among the dead was Jaxon Joseph, the 20-year-old son of former NHL player Chris Joseph.
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.”
Important to know the victims, brother says
Player Xavier Labelle, also died, his brother told CNN in an interview Sunday. “Xavier was a great person and nobody ever said anything bad about him,” Isaac Labelle said, adding that his brother was “well-loved by everybody.”
Both of the brothers grew up playing piano and sports together, Isaac said. He and Xavier, 18, were best friends.
“I also want people to know the good person he is,” Isaac said. “As much as I know it’s hard for me to talk about it, it’s important for people to know the victims of this tragedy.”
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.
A website for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League said Schatz had been named player of the month in February.
The other players who died were Adam Herold, 16; Connor Lukan, 21; Evan Thomas, 18; Jacob Leicht, 19; Logan Boulet, 21; Logan Hunter, 18; and Stephen Wack, 21, the RCMP said.
‘Incredible’ head coach among the dead
The team’s head coach, Darcy Haugan, 42, died in Friday’s crash, according to the release.
When asked about Haugan in a press conference Sunday, Broncos President Kevin Garinger paused and held back tears, before telling reporters Haugan was an “incredible” coach, husband and father.
“He talked about the fact that the Humboldt Broncos were about not building hockey players, but creating amazing young men … and that was Darcy’s belief, and through that process they would’ve ultimately become great hockey players, too, which was also the case.”
“He’s sadly missed by our entire organization,” Garinger said.
The driver of the bus, 59-year-old Glen Doerksen, died in the crash.
Another team Doerksen drove this spring, the Kinistino Tigers Senior Hockey Team, said on its Facebook pagethat Doerksen enjoyed being able to transport hockey teams and watch them play their games.
“We got on that bus and trusted him with our lives, and both times he got us home safely,” the post said.
Assistant coach Mark Cross, 27, also died.
Broadcasting employees killed in crash
Two employees of local radio station Bolt FM who were traveling with the team also lost their lives.
Both the radio station and the website DiscoverHumboldt.com 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.
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.
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,” 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.
By Sunday evening, a GoFundMe page for the players and their families had raised more than $4 million, the result of nearly 60,000 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.
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.
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”
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.
By Dakin Andone, Amanda Jackson and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN