Upon hearing the news that he was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the horrific collision between his hockey team’s bus and a semi-truck, 18-year-old Ryan Straschnitzki told his father he would be switching sports.
“When they told us, Ryan just looked at us and goes, ‘Dad, Olympic sledge hockey. I’ll get us the gold,” Tom Straschnitzki said.
“I couldn’t fall apart there, I had to be strong for him but… that kid’s amazing. And those other kids are amazing also.”
The young defenceman from Airdrie, Alta. was on the Humboldt Broncos bus Friday evening when it crashed at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335, about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, Sask.
Fifteen people onboard the bus are confirmed dead with four more in critical condition.
Straschnitzki has also reached out to his friend and trainer, Cody Thompson, telling him he is preparing to get back to work at White Collar Boxing Company in Airdrie.
“When we talked, he was like, ‘I have an injury, that’s it. I have an injury and we are going to get through it and I need to figure out what’s next,’” Thompson said.
Straschnitzki’s parents said he was thrown from the bus and broke his back. But even as he lay on the asphalt, unable to feel his legs, his concern was for his teammates.
“His main thought when he was lying on the road looking at everybody and he couldn’t move, he said he wanted to help,” mother Michelle Straschnitzki said.
The young hockey player remembers details of the crash –- images his parents say he’ll have to live with as he goes forward in life.
“He does keep looking at the picture of the bus. He runs through in his head where everyone was sitting,” his father said.
“He does have survivor remorse, [saying] ‘If I was sitting there, I wouldn’t be here.’ We said, ‘Pal, you’re going to have that. You gotta be able to talk about it.’”
Despite the devastating loss of his close friends and his difficult prognosis, Straschnitzki’s parents say he’s trying to make the hospital a better place – even asking doctors if he could use a wheelchair to make visiting his teammates easier. Medical staff told him his body wasn’t ready.
“He has his moments, but he’s trying to focus on the here and now, the boys that are [at the hospital]. He just wants to be able to see them and talk to them and visit,” Michelle said.
“He’s strong, he’s a fighter. He’s determined to get well.”
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