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Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

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HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP) – A hockey arena became the epicenter of grief for a small Canadian town Sunday as friends, relatives and those who housed members of a youth hockey team gathered to mourn 15 people killed when a semi-trailer slammed into the team’s bus. Fourteen were also injured, some critically, in a collision that left the country, its national sport and the hockey-obsessed town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, reeling. The bus had 29 passengers, including the driver, when it crashed at about 5 p.m.

Friday on Highway 35, police said. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

A memorial at the stairs that lead to Elgar Petersen Arena is shown in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police say 14 people are dead and others injured Friday after a truck collided with a bus carrying a junior hockey team to a playoff game in northeastern Saskatchewan. Police say there were 28 people including the driver on board the Humboldt Broncos bus when the crash occurred at around 5 p.m. on Highway 35 north of Tisdale. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP) Residents of this town of less than 6,000 people have been leaving flowers, team jerseys and personal tributes on the steps of the arena’s entrance, forming a makeshift memorial.

One tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favorite meal of deceased forward Evan Thomas. A bouquet of pink roses adorned the box, which read: “to Evan, game day special, love your billet brother and sister Colten and Shelby.” While most of the players were from elsewhere in western Canada, they were put up by families in the small town of Humboldt.

Billeting families are a large part of junior hockey, with players spending years with host families. Dennis Locke, his wife and three young children came to the arena to hang posters of forward Jaxon Joseph, who was the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph. The Locke family hosted Joseph and treated him like a son.

“Best person ever,” Locke said. “Down to earth, loved playing with the kids.” His wife wiped away tears from swollen eyes. Forwards Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan and defensemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold, Logan Boulet and Xavier Labelle were also among the dead, according to family members and others.

Assistant coach Mark Cross, bus driver Glen Doerksen and stats keeper Brody Hinz, who was 18, were also killed. Herold, who would have turned 17 Thursday, played for the Regina Pat Canadians hockey team until just weeks ago, but was sent to join the Broncos for their playoff round when the Pat Canadians’ season wrapped up, said John Smith, the Pat Canadians’ manager. As the names of the dead emerge, “it’s getting harder and harder,” Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said. “This is going to be a long haul for us.”

Norman Mattock, a longtime season ticket holder, said his neighbor housed player Morgan Gobeil. The defenseman was severely injured and remains in serious but stable condition, Mattock said. He said players become part of the community fabric, doing volunteer work or serving in restaurants.

Three players who stayed with the same family all died in the crash, he added. “They lost them all,” Mattock said. The Broncos were a close-knit team who dyed their hair blond for the playoffs.

The bus was driving the team to a crucial playoff game Friday against the Nipawin Hawks. Team President Kevin Garinger, who reported that one injured player had been released from the hospital, said the team will continue next year and won’t disband. A vigil was scheduled for the hockey team’s home ice Sunday night, and a makeshift stage and hundreds of chairs sat ready for the memorial.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau planned to attend. The home page of the team’s website was replaced with a silhouette of a man praying beneath the Broncos’ logo of a mustang. The pews were full Sunday at St.

Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Humboldt, where the Rev. Joseph Salish told parishioners that if they felt like crying, they should cry. Between Masses, streams of people – many of them red-eyed from crying – hugged each other.

“We’re devastated,” said hockey club Vice President Randolph MacLEAN. “At the center of this, we have 15 souls who’ll never go home again. We have 29 lives that will never be the same.” MacLEAN said the community comes together at the arena on game nights that draw 800 to 1,000 people to the stands.

“It’s an energy that spreads through the town with road signs saying ‘Game tonight,’ tickets for sale everywhere,” he said. As is the case with small town hockey across Canada, he said, the arena is not just a recreation facility, but a focus of community life with the hockey team at its center. With players staying with local families, working in city businesses and attending local schools, the tragedy touches every corner of Humboldt, MacLEAN said.

Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not hurt, was initially detained but later released and provided with mental health assistance. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said it was too early to state a cause for the crash. Police have not said whether or not the driver was impaired.

Photographs of the wreckage showed the twisted trailer with most of its wheels in the air and the bus on its side with a portion destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection. Police said a lot of issues remained to be investigated in the bus crash, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles.

___ Associated Press writer Jeremy Hainsworth reported this story in Humboldt and AP writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto.

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

Flowers are shown at center ice as preparations are made at Elgar Petersen Arena for a vigil tonight in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Sunday, April 8, 2018. Multiple people traveling with the Humboldt Broncos SJHL hockey team are dead, and many injured when their bus was collided with a semi-trailer north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

A memorial at the stairs that lead to Elgar Petersen Arena is shown in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police say 14 people are dead and others injured Friday after a truck collided with a bus carrying a junior hockey team to a playoff game in northeastern Saskatchewan. Police say there were 28 people including the driver on board the Humboldt Broncos bus when the crash occurred at around 5 p.m. on Highway 35 north of Tisdale. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

The Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks come together at center ice wearing Broncos on the back of their jerseys for a moment of silence for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims before NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saturday, April 7, 2018. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, Saturday, April, 7, 2018. A bus, top, en route to Nipawin carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team crashed into a truck Friday night, killing 14 and sending over a dozen more to the hospital.(Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield stands near the Detroit Red Wings bench in a moment of silence for the deaths of members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey league team, before an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. A crash between a tractor-trailer and the bus carrying the Canadian junior hockey league team from Saskatchewan, Canada, occurred Friday on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan, about 150 miles northeast of Saskatoon (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

Ottawa Senators’ Mark Borowiecki, center, bows his head between Boston Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy, foreground left, and Noel Acciari, right, during a moment of silence for the Saskatchewan Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims before an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

The inside of the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos youth hockey team, is seen in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada, Saturday, April 7, 2018. Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened when a semi-trailer collided with the hockey team’s bus at a Saskatchewan highway intersection in a horrific crash that killed multiple people, including players and the coach of the Humboldt Broncos. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass (30) wears “Broncos” on his jersey and a sticker on the back of his mask in honor of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims during the second period of NHL hockey game action against the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saturday, April 7, 2018. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

The Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks come together at center ice wearing Broncos on the back of their jerseys for a moment of silence for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims before NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saturday, April 7, 2018. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian town mourns 15 killed when truck, team bus collide

People gather at a memorial set up on the stairs that lead to Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened when a tractor-trailer collided with a hockey team bus at a Saskatchewan highway intersection in a horrific crash that killed multiple people, including players and the coach of the Humboldt Broncos. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP)

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