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Humboldt families, officials extend sympathies, support after deadly Manitoba crash

Scott Thomas was driving and listening to the radio on Thursday when he heard the news of the deadly crash near Carberry, Man., that killed 15 people and left 10 people injured.

Thomas had to pull over.

“Anytime we hear the word semi involved in a mass casualty incident now, it takes our breath away,” he said.

An aerial view of the aftermath of the crash between the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus and a tractor trailer.
The wreckage of the Humboldt Broncos hockey bus crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., on Saturday, April, 7, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Thomas’s 18-year-old son Evan was one of 16 people killed in 2018 when the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus collided with a tractor trailer. 

He is devastated for the families in Dauphin, Man., who lost loved ones.

“The first thing you’re going to have to accept, unfortunately, is that your life will never be the same,” he said. 

“The person that you were yesterday is gone. You’re going to have to find a new way to exist.… And you’re going to have to put one foot forward and then the next foot forward and just keep breathing and keep going and accept the help of the people around you.”

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Shared tragedy

The horrific crash in Manitoba has left many grappling with the tragedy, an experience the people of Humboldt. Sask., know all too well.

Michael Behiel was a Humboldt city councillor in 2018.

A man wearing a black tie and suit jacket stands in front of trees.
Michael Behiel was a Humboldt city councillor when the crash happened in 2018. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Now mayor, Behiel jumped into action to see how his city could help Dauphin.

“Our fire chief was in contact with the fire chief of Dauphin to discuss triage measures, etc., to make sure that everything moving forward was being looked after properly there and handled,” he said.

“The city managers have spoken to try to establish any offers of assistance and input that we can give them. And I myself have reached out to the mayor of Dauphin offering any means of support or input that we can.”

A green jersey reading "Pray for Humboldt" can be seen in a memorial at the scene of the bus crash.
The memorial for the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the site where 16 people died and 13 were injured when the team bus crashed into a truck. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The cities now have a bond of shared tragedy.

“It’s not a tie that anybody ever wants to have in that shape or form,” Behiel said.

“I’ve made it clear that anything we can offer, even if it means myself going to Dauphin to assist the mayor in whatever shape or form I can, that those are there. And that our phone is on 24 hours a day to make sure that they have all the support that they can get or need.”

Behiel said those grieving should not be afraid to reach out for help and should make sure to focus on themselves.

“Don’t worry about trying to think about future. Focus instead on the now — whether it be day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute,” he said. “Just get yourself through the next few days as best as you can, and we will be there to support and help you all along the way.”

A man wears black-rimmed glasses and a black sweatshirt.
Kevin Garinger is the former president of the Humboldt Broncos. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

For Kevin Garinger, the former president of the Humboldt Broncos, the effects of the crash in Manitoba will linger throughout the community.

“We know that it’s not just the families, which of course have the most significant loss, but it’s also those who are going to be responding. The first responders and the others who have had to, even afterward, re-map what happened and that sort of thing,”  he said. 

“So many are going to be impacted significantly by this and we just need to make sure that through all of that we look out for people.”

Long process

Ryan Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down in the Humboldt crash.

One of 13 survivors, he said that he and his former teammates will be there to support the families in Dauphin — now and into the future.

“The biggest piece of advice will be that things will get better. It’s going to suck. It’s going to be a long process, but just know that things in the end will start to get better,” he said.

As for Thomas, he said the kindness of Canadians helped get him through the grief.

His biggest advice for Manitobans shocked by the scale and magnitude of the crash — be patient.

“Everybody wants answers now and everybody wants this to make sense. But it’s not going to, for a long time. On some level, ours still doesn’t make sense.”

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