The head coach, captain and play-by-play announcer of the Humboldt Broncos are among the confirmed dead after 15 people were killed in a crash on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan on Friday.
The crash involved a semi-truck and the team bus of the Humboldt Broncos, a hockey team that competes in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
“We are heartbroken and completely devastated by the tragedy that occurred yesterday,” said Broncos president Kevin Garinger.
Nipawin RCMP said the collision happened about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, near the junction of Highway 335.
Police said there were 29 people on the bus, including the driver. Fifteen people are in hospital, some with injuries described as “critical.”
Curtis Zablocki, Saskatchewan RCMP assistant commissioner, said it is too early in the investigation to determine what happened.
Tributes for the victims are pouring in at the local arena, where the Broncos normally play.
In addition, local clergy have planned a vigil on Sunday night to honour the deceased.
The names of multiple people killed in the crash have been confirmed.
Christina George-Haugan, the wife of head coach Darcy Haugan, confirmed his death to the Canadian Press.
Logan Schatz, who played with the Broncos for just over four years and served as team captain for the past two-and-a-half years; Jaxon Joseph, the son of former Edmonton Oiler Chris Joseph; and Stephen Wack were also killed in the crash, along with Broncos play-by-play announcer Tyler Bieber.
“Our immediate priority remains on meeting the needs of our athletes, families and friends. Everything about this tragedy is unprecedented and it’s overwhelming,” Garinger said.
SJHL president Bill Chow broke down in tears as he called the crash “the worst nightmare that could happen.”
WATCH BELOW: SJHL president holds back tears talking about Humboldt Broncos crash
“Due to the large amount of evidence, information and the number of victims, this work will take some time,” Zablocki said.
“It’s too early to comment on the cause of the collision. We will continue to update.”
Zablocki said the driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured in the crash.
WATCH BELOW: RCMP confirm driver of semi-truck involved in Humboldt crash released
Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said the tragedy is a “dark moment for our city and the community.”
“Throughout Canada, we see teams going out into the Canadian winters on buses all the time. It’s a thought in parents’ minds about what could happen — and unfortunately it has happened.
“There is no playbook on what to do in cases like this and we’re asking for everyone’s support and consideration in the coming days and weeks and months and years that it’s going to take to get through this.”
WATCH BELOW: ‘We will get through this;” Humboldt mayor on tragic bus crash
A crisis and counselling centre has been set up at the Humboldt Uniplex Convention Centre.
Garinger said the team includes players from the Edmonton area, Slave Lake and Airdrie in Alberta, and from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“While we are stunned and grieving over this incomprehensible situation, we know this is a moment to come together and support, lean on one another,” Garinger said.
“We will persevere and we will honour the Broncos who were lost.”
Watch below: RCMP hold press conference to discuss crash between tractor-trailer, Humboldt Broncos team bus truck.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is a Junior ‘A’ hockey league under Hockey Canada, and is open to North American-born players between the age of 16 and 20.
Chow said it is too early to comment on how the league will proceed with its playoffs.
The Broncos were to play the Nipawin Hawks on Friday in a semifinal game.
“We will have conversations as to what the Humboldt Broncos want to do,” Chow said.
“We will then have discussions with our governors of the league and whatever decision we make, we’re going to do what we think is in the best interests of the league.”
LISTEN: Global News Radio’s Michelle Morton speaks with Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe organizer Sylvie Kellington.
The Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos tweeted their condolences.
“Humboldt Broncos weighing heavy in our hearts and minds tonight,” the team said on social media.
Watch below: (From Dec. 30, 2016) A memorial has been unveiled for four Swift Current Broncos players on the anniversary of the fatal bus crash.
Four members of the Swift Current Broncos were killed in a 1986 bus crash in Saskatchewan.
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, one of the players on that bus in 1986, also tweeted a message of support.
“Sending all my thoughts and prayers to those impacted with the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.”
Watch below: Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy headed to Saskatchewan in wake of Humboldt Bronco bus crash
“It’s just an absolute tragedy. I know it affects some of the kids in our room; it affects everybody in the hockey community.
“Those could have been our kids.”
Warriors coach Tim Hunter said his “thoughts and prayers are with those families and players.”
Hunter said his staff heard about the crash just before the game but didn’t mention it to the players right away. He said they found out afterwards.
“You remember back to the Swift Current Broncos accident and all the people affected by that,” he said, before noting how social media has changed how people react to tragedies.
“You go on Twitter, the modern age… It’s just staggering the amount of people who are sending out well wishes and thoughts and prayers to the families and players… The hockey community is a very tight community and everybody is thinking about those people.”
“Words can not describe the loss that we feel tonight,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tweeted. “From a grieving province, thank you to first responders and medical professionals for courageous response under the most difficult circumstances imaginable.
“Tonight, we all must pray for these families.”
The father of Derek Patter, one of the surviving members of the team, posted a tweet of three Humboldt Broncos players recovering in hospital.
Edmonton native Quinn Schneidmiller used to play for the Broncos until he was traded in October. He spoke to Global News from his family home in Penticton, B.C. after learning of the crash and said he happened to be in Humboldt earlier this week where he saw the players from his former team.
“I can’t believe what happened,” Schneidmiller said. “I literally hugged some of them 72 hours ago.
“It’s hard to comprehend,” he added. “I knew most of the victims pretty well.”
Tisdale is about 200 kilometres east of Saskatoon.
Reaction to the crash was swift on social media.
View some of the tweets sent out about the crash below:
— With files from Global’s Marney Blunt and the Canadian Press