The eyes of the world were on Humboldt Sunday night as the community held a vigil to honour those lost in a tragic bus crash that killed 15 people and injured 14 others.
Holding hands and shedding tears, the Humboldt Broncos family grieved together. The home of the Broncos, the Elgar Petersen Arena hosted the largest crowd the community had ever seen.
Team pastor Sean Brandow spoke at the vigil in Humboldt Sunday.
“I really don’t want to be here, but it’s good that we are,” he told the crowd.
As a spiritual leader he admitted he doesn’t have answers to the questions many people are asking, like why this happened, or where God was. While he said no one can claim to understand how this would be in His control, Brandow assured mourners God was with them in their grief.
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) April 9, 2018
Brandow was heading to Nipawin for the game, and he came upon the crash shortly after it happened. He described feeling lost as he came upon a scene he never wants to see again and heard sounds he never wants to hear again.
“Then to go to the hospital and walk around and just to hear groaning and panic and fear and distress and pain and just nothing but darkness,” Brandow recalled.
The pastor stayed in the hospital all night and day with the players and their families. He said they need people’s support right now.
“You family members, you need that. You need to hear that people love you, that people care, that people are praying, that you’re supported, that you are loved, you’ll be looked after in the future. Those are important things,” Brandow said.
Many who attended said the ceremony helped start the healing process. Many said they planned to be with family Monday with no school and some workplaces closed.
Across the province people also came together to share their grief and honour the 15 people killed, the 14 people injured and their families. Vigils were held simultaneously at arenas, town halls and churches in dozens of communities.
Regina vigil outside city hall.
In Regina a crowd gathered around the fountain outside city hall Sunday evening to honour the Bronco.
— Jessie Anton (@jessieanton_) April 9, 2018
Members of the Regina Pee Wee A Bisons hockey team attended the vigil together, including their 13-year-old assistant captain Mitchell Ervin. He said the tragedy really hit home for them.
“It’s sad because they were just young hockey players and it could have been anybody on the bus,” Ervin commented. “Like I said, it just scared me because it could have been anybody and it was said because I play hockey and I know what it’s like to have a team at your back and I couldn’t imagine that happening and the shock that the other players must be going through. It’s a sad day.
Ervin and his teammates all placed candles beside each Bronco player’s photo to honour them.
A picture of late #HumboldtBroncos coach Darcy Haugan is set in the middle of the circle. Beside the players, there’s also one of the bus driver, Glen Doerksen. #PrayersForHumboldt #HumboldtStrong pic.twitter.com/EelH6ravQ5
— Jessie Anton (@jessieanton_) April 9, 2018
Darla Montgomery was also in the crowd, with her therapy dog Bailey by her side to help comfort anyone who needed it.
She was thinking of one particular member of the Broncos who was killed in the crash, highlighting the connection between so many people in Saskatchewan.
“One of my best friends, her nephew was Evan Thomas and he was killed in the crash,” Montgomery explained but noted that the tragedy hit close to home before she heard that news. “But before I even found that out, both my boys played hockey their entire lives and were on the road on buses constantly.”
Saskatoon honours Broncos, first responders
Several hundred people gathered outside Saskatoon City Hall to grieve, with a number of city fire trucks lining the road behind them, one of them flying a Humboldt Broncos jersey.
“We’re searching for ways we can help. We’re trying to put the pieces back together,” organizer Elise Ruiters said.
Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper told those assembled his thoughts were with the many first responders affected by the crash.
“Unfotunately for first responders, the world doesn’t stop and let you digest and think things through. The world keeps going. Our staff worked Friday night and they had to come back and work Saturday.”
Cooper said emergency workers lean on their families at times like these, as well as their community. He said events like the vigils held across the province help them know they are cared for.
—With files from Keenan Sorokan, Chris Vandenbreekel and 980 CJME