By Amy B Wang
At least 15 are dead after a crash between a semi-truck and a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey league team, police said.
The other 14 people aboard were injured. The team's head coach, Darcy Haugan, was among the dead.
The deadly crash occurred around 5 p.m. Friday on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan, about 150 miles northeast of Saskatoon, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The bus was carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey league team, on their way to the town of Nipawin for a game, the team said.
“While en route to Nipawin, the Broncos bus was involved in a terrible accident which has resulted in multiple fatalities and serious injuries,” the team confirmed Friday.
Early Saturday, police confirmed at least 14 other people were injured, three of them critically. There were 28 people on the Humboldt Broncos team bus, including the driver, at the time of the crash, police said.
Police did not release names of the deceased or injured, nor did they say how many were players or coaches. Police also did not release the condition of the driver of the semi-truck.
The Broncos roster lists 24 players ranging in age from 16 to 21 years old, as well as three coaches. The junior league team is based in Humboldt, a small city about 120 miles south of Nipawin with a population of nearly 6,000 people.
Michelle Straschnitzki told The Associated Press her 18-year-old son Ryan was among the Broncos players taken to a hospital in Saskatoon.
“We talked to him, but he said he couldn’t feel his lower extremities, so I don’t know what’s going on,” Straschnitzki told the AP. “I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates, and I am losing my mind.”
Broncos president Kevin Garinger described it as “one of the hardest days of my life.”
“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,” Garinger said statement. “Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss.”
Though the team had been traveling to an away game, as word spread of the accident, dozens of Humboldt residents gathered at the Broncos’ home ice rink to wait for news and take solace in the community, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported.
“There’s people, just sitting in the stands, stunned. They didn’t know what to do,” Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench told the newspaper. “It’s a tragedy not only for Humboldt, but for hockey all over [Canada]. A number of the players were from communities in surrounding provinces and across the country. It is a very, very hard thing to take.”
Several professional hockey teams and Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also offered their condolences.
The Broncos had been scheduled to play against the Nipawin Hawks in the semifinals of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs. The Hawks announced Friday night that the game had been canceled.
The Buffalo Sabres Saturday released a statement on the tragedy via Twitter:
We’re heartbroken by the tragic events in Saskatchewan. Our thoughts and prayers are with @HumboldtBroncos and all affected by this terrible tragedy.
Hockey is a family and we join the hockey world with our condolences. #prayforhumboldt
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) April 7, 2018
On Friday night, more than a hundred people packed the Apostolic Church in Nipawin - including family members of Broncos players who had been on the bus - awaiting word from the accident, the Globe and Mail reported.
“Lots of them are waiting for information,” pastor Jordan Gadsby told the newspaper. “Some of the families have gotten information and have gone to be with their kids. Some of them are waiting to hear if their kids are alive.”
Nipawin Hawks president Darren Opp told local reporters that members of his team were also standing by waiting to help, and that he had received at least 50 phone calls offering the same.
“There’s uncles and moms and dads waiting to hear whether their sons and nephews are OK,” he said. “It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible.”
We send condolence, comfort and strength to all affected by the devastating crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus. pic.twitter.com/VScEay6sZv
— NHL (@NHL) April 7, 2018