It was Friday April 6, a day when the Western Hockey League geared up for round two of the playoffs and several other teams and leagues were also in the midst of their playoffs series when the unthinkable happened.
The twelve team Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League was in round three of the playoffs with the Nipawin Hawks and Humboldt Broncos. Nipawin was leading 3-1 in the series with the series moving back to Nipawin, Saskatchewan for game five and the winner moving on to the Canalta Cup Finals. The Broncos had come back to gain a foothold in the series before losing a 6-5 triple overtime to the Hawks on Wednesday night in Humboldt, Saskatchewan.
The Humboldt Broncos team bus with twenty-eight passengers aboard including players and coaching staff was struck and T-Boned by a transport truck thirty kilometers (twenty miles) north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan. The bus was already an hour and a half into a two-hour trip. The Bus was struck at an area known as Armley Corner at the junction of Highway 35 and Highway 335 at about five pm CDT.
Three air ambulances were dispatched to the scene as the tragedy unfolded. Of the twenty-eight passengers on board, fourteen were confirmed dead, the other fourteen were injured, most in serious condition. The players, ages sixteen to twenty play at a level one tier below the Western Hockey League and most of the players after graduating from the league, head off to college or university hockey. No word was given on the status of the truck driver.
The following was released on the Humboldt Broncos website.
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.
Broncos President, Kevin Garinger has made the following statement: “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 name Broncos conjures up memories of another horrific crash that occurred with the Swift Current Broncos in December 1986. That crash killed four players and a two meter (6 foot) tall monument of a four leaf clover honoring the victims was unveiled at the crash site located four kilometers east of Swift Current in 2016. In that incident, the bus hit a patch of black ice and skidded off an overpass before coming to rest on its side during a blizzard.
Nipawin is located 110 kilometers (65 miles east of Saskatoon in northern Saskatchewan) with a population of just over 4400, Humboldt, Saskatchewan population is just over 6,000. Most of the players on the Broncos team were from Saskatchewan, with a couple from Manitoba and Alberta.
Immediately following the incident, a tribute to the Broncos was created and has been posted by tens of thousands of people on Facebook and other social media and one of the player’s parents R.J. Patter tweeted out a photo from the hospital of his son and two teammates recovering in hospital.
A GoFundMe account was setup and was averaging nearly six thousand dollars an hour in its first ten hours.