Graphic warning: Some images in this story may be disturbing to viewers. Discretion is advised.
In the moments following the deadly collision between the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a semi-truck on a rural Saskatchewan highway, Airdrie’s Ryan Straschnitzki was desperate to help his teammates, but couldn’t move to reach them.
Straschnitzki was one of 13 people injured in Friday night’s crash. He was paralyzed from the chest down. Sixteen people died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash.
Speaking from his hospital bed at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, Straschnitzki said he was on his phone sitting near the front of the bus when the crash happened.
“All of a sudden, the bus driver yelled, ‘Whoa!’ and slammed on the brakes and we ended up hitting the semi and I blacked out from there,” he told Discover Airdrie in a phone interview.
“Later I woke up lying on the road, staring back at the bus severed in half, and my teammates were in front of me — bloodied and moaning — and I just wanted to help so bad.
“I just couldn’t move my legs or anything.”
WATCH: Aerial video shows the destruction left at the scene of the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team which claimed the lives of 15 people.
He said he was thankful there were civilians on the scene to help them as they waited for EMS to arrive to treat the injured players and staff.
“They were pretty much brothers to me,” he said.
“I think any hockey team would say that we just have the hockey relationship — you would put everything on the line for them.
“When something tragic like that happens, it’s absolutely devastating. The bond is so strong.”
The 18-year-old said he blacked out a second time and woke up in Nipawin hospital, where he was treated before being airlifted to Saskatoon to undergo surgery.
Straschnitzki said his recovery process is going well. He doesn’t know yet when he will be able to go back home to Alberta.
“I’m pretty tired and pretty sore, but with the positive thoughts and with the support I’m getting I can pretty much deal with anything at this point.”
He also said he isn’t letting the extent of his injuries hamper his hockey dreams.
“I’m just going to not dwell on the past and do what my body is capable of doing,” Straschnitzki said. “Hopefully get on the ice again and play the sport I love, no matter what.”
“That would be a huge honour to learn and play for the Olympic team someday.”
The hockey player said he has a message for others going through difficult times.
“It gets better. You have lots of people supporting you no matter what. Don’t give up, just do what you’re capable of and things will turn out the way you want.”
A rally is planned in Straschnitzki’s hometown of Airdrie for Friday night. People in the community and surrounding are invited to come together to offer support to both Straschnizki and his injured teammates, as well as pay their respects to those who lost their lives.