A western Canadian town of about 6,000 people was devastated Friday after learning that a bus carrying the town’s junior hockey team had collided with a semi-truck while traveling to a playoff game, resulting in at least 14 deaths.
Others on the bus were injured, three of them critically, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported.
Most of those killed were likely the hockey players, who were between 16 and 21 years old — though the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would not specify how many of the fatalities were players.
“We are just in utter disbelief and shock at the loss that’s fallen upon us,” Kevin Garinger, president of the Humboldt Broncos team, told CBC. He said he first learned of the accident through a phone call from a fan.
“We are just in utter disbelief and shock at the loss that’s fallen upon us.”
“Our organization will never be the same,” Garinger told the Saskatoon newspaper.
Police said overnight that the bus had been carrying 28 occupants, including the driver. It was unclear whether the truck driver was among the fatalities.
Authorities said the crash occurred on a highway in Tisdale, Sask., about 5 p.m. local time.
The Broncos were on their way to a game against the Nipawin Hawks. After receiving word of the crash, the Hawks announced on Facebook that the game had been canceled.
Myles Shumlanski, father of Broncos player Nick Shumlanski, told the Saskatoon Star Phoenix he went to the scene after getting a call from his son.
“It was a disaster,” he said. “We had a crane lifting the bus.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathy to the Humboldt community in a tweet, saying he was “unable to imagine” what the team’s parents must be going through.
Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench told CBC he was devastated.
“It’s going to hit the community hard,” he said. “It’s not a good day for Humboldt.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tweeted that there were no words to describe the loss.
“To the City of Humboldt, the entire Broncos organization, and the families impacted by this tragedy, please know you are in Saskatchewan’s hearts,” he wrote. “Tonight we must pray for these families.”
The Nipawin Apostolic Church was serving as gathering place for families to receive more information as it became available, the RCMP said.
“We just opened our building here with food and drinks … they can come if they need somewhere to go or someone to talk to,” Nipawin Apostolic Church Pastor Jordan Gadsby told the Star Phoenix. “There’s not a lot of confirmed information at this point. Families are just waiting to hear from their kids.
“There’s a lot of tears.”
This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.