Humboldt honours victims on second anniversary of Broncos bus crash

The bells chimed at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Humboldt, SK, on the second anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (File photo by Daniel J. Classen)

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Humboldt, SK – Canadian Catholic News] – The church bells of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Humboldt chimed 29 times at 4:50 p.m. on Monday, April 6 in remembrance of the 16 who died and 13 others injured two years ago when the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus collided with a semi-trailer near Tisdale in northern Saskatchewan.

A moment of silence followed throughout the community, at the approximate time of the 2018 crash to remember the 16 players and team officials who died and the 13 injured survivors. 

This year’s toned down commemorations are in stark contrast to last year’s first anniversary celebration, when a nation was still mourning the young men, team officials and other associates who died or had their lives forever changed when a semi-trailer barrelled through a stop sign and collided with the team bus enroute to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team’s Junior “A” playoff game in Nipawin. 

With the country shutdown due to COVID-19, some families had planned on attending a small ceremony in Humboldt, while others wanted to visit the crash site or gather with family and friends, reported Canadian Press. But restrictions around the virus put a stop to those plans.

St. Augustine parish was to be at the heart of this year’s commemoration. Beyond the ringing of the bells, the parish centre was to host a special exhibit bringing together the creative and unique memorabilia the city of Humboldt received in the days, weeks and month that followed the horrific crash. Original plans had the exhibit being open to the public, but COVID-19 restrictions have put a stop to that. Instead, people can view the exhibit online at humboldt.ca/tribute.

The tribute site is a place to view photos and video clips and remembrances of the team members and others on the bus, what happened and how a community, near and far, came together in support of each other. The tribute went live online at noon April 6.

The ceremonies surrounding this year’s anniversary are purposely toned down, said St. Augustine pastor Fr. Joseph Salihu. Since the first anniversary there’s been a conscious community effort to leave the mourning with the families affected.

“We’re thinking of a way to still remember them without drawing too much communal (grieving),” said Salihu. “So that memorial was a very good way of doing it, so people can come on their own as individuals to look at the memorial without really gathering collectively for that celebration.”

St. Augustine parish is honoured to take part in this commemoration, said Salihu. “St. Augustine’s is very proud and privileged to still be able to uphold that heritage within the community,” he said.

“In the midst of all the turmoil in the present world we want to make sure the lives lost and those that were changed forever two years ago are not forgotten,” said Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench in a news release. “During this time of self-isolating and practising physical distancing, it’s important to us that people still have a place to go to reflect and remember the tragedy and the outpouring of support that our community received on a global scale.”

Those who died as a result of the crash on April 6, 2018 were Humboldt Bronco players Logan Boulet, Adam Herold, Logan Hunter, Jaxon Joseph, Jacob Leicht, Conner Lukan, Logan Schatz, Evan Thomas, Parker Tobin, and Stephen Wack, along with support and team personnel: assistant coach Mark Cross, head coach, Darcy Haugan, team statistician Brody Hinz, Bolt FM broadcaster Tyler Bieber, bus driver Glen Doerksen, and athletic therapist Dayna Brons.

Those who were injured in the crash were Graysen Cameron, Brayden Camrud, Kaleb Dahlgren, Bryce Fiske, Morgan Gobeil, Matthieu Gomercic, Xavier LaBelle, Layne Matechuk, Derek Patter, Nick Shumlanski, Tyler Smith, Ryan Straschnitzki and Jacob Wassermann.

The driver of the semi-trailer, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury, and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

-30-