Canadians were shocked and confused after the announcement came that the identities of two Humboldt Broncos affected in the bus crash Friday night were mixed up.
But the families of both Parker Tobin and Xavier LaBelle say they are grieving in solidarity in the wake of the tragic news.
“The families of Parker Tobin and Xavier LaBelle are grieving together,” a statement from a family spokesperson said. “They hope the focus will remain on those grieving and those recovering, not the confusion in an unimaginable tragedy.”
At first, Parker Tobin was thought to be one of the survivors of the crash that left another 15 people dead and more than a dozen injured when his bus and a semi-truck collided on a Saskatchewan highway.
But the Saskatoon coroner’s officer apologized, saying they accidentally misidentified LaBelle as deceased, when he in fact is recovering in hospital, and that Tobin had been killed.
WATCH: Coroner’s Office addresses misidentification of victim in Humboldt Broncos bus crash
Since then, an outpouring of grief has emerged for Tobin, who is from Stony Plain, Alta.
A goalie on the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey team, he was remembered as a smart, well-spoken kid.
“We are once again reminded of how fragile life can be and what is truly important in our lives. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Parker Tobin, and to everyone impacted by this horrific and traumatic incident. As a community, we mourn with every other community in Canada,” Stony Plain mayor William Choy said in a statement.
“The Tobin family is very active in the local hockey community, and they have touched the lives of many. The Town of Stony Plain will support the Tobin family through this difficult and emotional time.”
FULL COVERAGE: Humboldt Bronos bus tragedy
The loss hit home for many, especially for longtime teammate and friend Brandon Ewanchyshyn.
“He was such a great human being and such a great person,” Ewanchyshyn told Global News.
The pair were goalie partners on multiple teams as they grew up – they even hold the record for the most seasons as tandem goalies playing elite minor hockey together at such a competitive level.
Ewanchyshyn said their goalie partnership created a special connection.
“It is pretty special because there’s only one other goalie on the team,” he explained. “You share a connection … You can only really go for advice to that one other person, you can only really sit in the box with that one other person.”
“It was amazing to have him as a goalie partner for all those years.”
Ewanchyshyn, who is now a media director for the Spruce Grove Saints, said Tobin was even his first official interview in the position.
While he was first optimistic because he thought Tobin was going to survive, he said he couldn’t believe it when he got news of the mix-up.
“I didn’t believe it. I thought it was completely false,” he said.
He says he’s going to miss having a beer and playing Xbox all night with Tobin the most.
“That might sound corny … but it’s going to really suck that I’m not going to be able to do that with him, that nobody will ever experience a fun night with him again,” he said.
The rest of the Spruce Grove community are also feeling the loss of Tobin, who played Bantam and Minor Midget AAA for the club.
“Because our hockey community is so tightly knit, the losses of former Saints players Conner Lukan and Parker Tobin have deeply impacted everyone in our entire organization personally,” vice president Marc Kronewitt said. (Lukan was also killed in the crash on Friday.)
“Parker grew up playing goal in Stony Plain minor hockey system. Parker was very well spoken, smart and articulate. He was a positive influence for teammates both on and off the ice.”
WATCH: How to deal with grief in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy
“I saw Parker as a young player growing up. I was always impressed with him, the way he handled himself at the rink,” Spruce Grove team chaplin Tim Wiebe said Monday. “He was a very articulate, well spoken and kind young man. He’ll be greatly missed by all his friends.”
Kronewitt said they were shocked to hear of his passing.
“I think this is going to take a long time for people to get over this. I don’t think anybody ever will,” Wiebe said.
Tobin’s family wants to celebrate his life by setting up a scholarship fund to support future goalies.
“As many know, being a goalie brings an extra financial burden to many hockey families,” family friend Barb P explained on a Gofundme page.
“Therefore, in lieu of gifts and flowers, the Tobin family want to commemorate and celebrate Parkers’ life by establishing a scholarship fund dedicated to helping future goalies. The funds raised through this scholarship will go directly towards facilitating goalie skill development, equipment costs and educational pursuits.”
The page had received almost $8,000 of its $10,000 goal after being posted for only an hour.
Mayor Choy said members of the town’s administration have also been affected by Friday’s bus crash. Stony Plain’s chief administrative officer (CAO), Tom Goulden, arrived in the town seven years ago as the former CAO of Humboldt, Sask.
“Friday’s tragedy impacted Mr. Goulden and his family greatly given the personal connections they built during their time in Humboldt. Mr. Goulden is currently in Humboldt supporting the community as they work through the emotions and impacts of this tragedy,” the mayor’s statement said.
The Town of Stony Plain has lowered all flags to half-mast and will be placing yellow and green ribbon at all town facilities.
Meanwhile in the neighbouring community of Spruce Grove, a vigil is planned for Wednesday evening at Grant Fuhr Arena, which is home to the Spruce Grove Saints Junior A team. It’s set to start at 6 p.m.
— With files from Global Edmonton