A former assistant captain for the York University Lions hockey team is one of the 15 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team who died in a tragic bus accident in Saskatchewan Friday night.
A semi-truck collided with the Bronco’s team bus as it was on its way to play a game against the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
The York Lions released a statement Sunday morning saying the team is “saddened” by the news that 27-year-old Mark Cross, who was an assistant coach with the Broncos, was one of the victims of the crash.
Executive director of York Athletics & Recreation Jennifer Myers told Global News she was in “utter disbelief” when she got the text message about the crash and subsequently about Cross’ passing.
“You spend four to five years with these student athletes and they come to you young and really eager to make their mark and you watch them grow and evolve into these amazing people,” Myers said. “And Mark, from day one when he came to this program, really stood out as a leader and has been talked about as being one of the most genuine people you may know.”
Myers said she remembers Cross most for his “amazing smile and leadership.”
“He was one of those individuals that could stand up in a room and command the attention of all of the players. Somebody that was a real leader on the team by everything that he did.”
Myers knew that Cross would leave a mark when he graduated. She was certain he would “make a difference.”
“When we found out he was coaching the Humboldt organization, we thought ‘this is perfect.’ He was a Saskatchewan native and loved where he was from and loved giving back and knew what it was like to be a part of that community with those players that travelled all the time and spent countless hours on the road.”
“He knew what it meant to be a part of that organization.”
Lions’ head coach Russ Herrington, who was an assistant coach in Cross’ final year with the team, described him as a “fierce competitor who had a vibrant approach to life.”
The team said Cross graduated with a degree in kinesiology and health science in 2016.
“Mark was an exceptional young man, an assistant captain during his time at York and the team MVP in his fifth and final season in 2015-16,” Herrington said. “There was no one in the room that commanded more respect than Mark. To say we were proud that he was giving back by being a coach would be an understatement.”
Cross also previously played for the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins in Estevan, Sask., winning the team’s Bill Shinske Ethics Award on two occasions, according to David Willberg, editor of the Estevan Mercury newspaper.
Myers said the bus crash is the “worst kind of nightmare.”
“Teams travelling all the time up and down the highways and in the back roads, you hope you never get this phone call and I can’t imagine what the people in the organization, the parents and the town and everyone who is connected to this felt like when they got that phone call.”
“You just don’t know what to do with it.”
The RCMP said the cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The crash killed 15 people, and sent another 14 to hospital.
The victims include Broncos captain Logan Schatz along with nine other players, coach Darcy Haugun, the team’s statistician and radio play-by-play announcer and the driver of the bus.
WATCH: Aerial video shows destruction at scene of Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
A GoFundMe page set up for family members of the team had raised more than $3.5 million by Sunday afternoon.
The university will be putting out Cross’ hockey jersey, as well as a book of condolences that people can sign on Monday.
Myers said both will be passed along to Cross’ family and longtime girlfriend Molly.
“I just need everyone to know, especially Mark’s family and Molly, how deeply sorry we are and how sad we are for them. We feel for them and we’re mourning with them.”
— With files from Rebecca Joseph
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.