The memorial for the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the site where sixteen people died and thirteen injured when a truck crashed into the team bus Wednesday, January 30, 2019 in Tisdale, Sask. The second anniversary of a devastating Saskatchewan bus crash will be a quiet one for the families involved because of the COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Humboldt Broncos families to quietly mark anniversary of Saskatchewan bus crash

The crash killed 16 people and injured 13 on April 6, 2018

The second anniversary of a devastating Saskatchewan bus crash will be a quiet one for the still-mourning families as the COVID-19 crisis holds the country in its grip.

Sixteen people died and 13 were injured after a transport truck barrelled through a stop sign and into the path of the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team on April 6, 2018.

Some families hoped to attend a small ceremony Monday in Humboldt, others wanted to visit the crash site, and some wanted to gather with family and friends.

Instead, they’ll stay home because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s going to be a lonely day,” said Toby Boulet, whose son, Logan, was killed. “Not as many hugs. We can’t get together as a family.”

Boulet, who lives in Lethbridge, Alta., said memories from that day two years ago still churn in his mind.

Scott Thomas of Saskatoon said he’s only starting to accept that his son, Evan, won’t be coming home.

“It’s just a huge hole. We’re just staring into the abyss still every day,” he said. “It’s the first thing I think of when I get up and the last thing I think of when I go to bed.

In many ways, Thomas said, it’s only gotten worse.

For some of the survivors and their families, there’s a different type of reminder about what happened that day.

Kevin Matechuk’s son, Layne, suffered a brain injury and his recovery since he woke up from a coma has slowed. A new physiotherapy he was to start in Regina is on hold because of the pandemic.

Matechuk said his son is usually upbeat, but has trouble moving his right side and appears to be losing interest in the sport he once loved.

“His skating improved a little bit, but he drags his right side,” he said. “He’s starting to realize that it’s not going to be like it used to be.”

The Matechuk family has been to the crash site many times and was going to visit again on the anniversary before COVID-19 changed their plans.

Myles Shumlanski, whose son Nick was the only one to walk away from the crash with minor injuries, sees the site every day. It’s just down the road from the family’s home.

He said his son had been playing hockey at the University of Prince Edward Island, but has since quit and come home.

“He couldn’t handle it no more,” said Shumlanski. “He said he didn’t have enough support there and needed to be closer to his family. He just couldn’t do the grind anymore.”

READ MORE: Healing slow to come for some after Humboldt crash

Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down, still hopes to play for the national sledge hockey team. But his mother, Michelle Straschnitzki, said she’s worried about her son’s mental health.

For her, the collision could have happened yesterday.

“I’m still at the same place that I was two years ago,” she said. “I’m still bitterly angry. I just firmly believe it should never have happened and I hope to God it never happens again.”

Her husband, Tom, said the family hasn’t visited the crash site and won’t until his son is ready. They will be home together on Monday’s anniversary, he said.

Straschnitzki said he will turn on the green lights outside their house in memory of those who died and leave them on Tuesday for Green Shirt Day, created in honour of Logan Boulet to promote organ donation.

Boulet, 21, had signed up shortly before the crash to be a donor. Canadian Blood Services estimated that within two months of his death more than 150,000 people registered to donate their organs — a movement that became known as the Logan Boulet Effect.

Toby Boulet said Green Shirt Day will move entirely online due to COVID-19.

“We’ll get people to take pictures of themselves wearing their green shirts,” he said. People will be encouraged to post photos and videos on social media with the hashtags #greenshirtday and #LoganBouletEffect.

In Humboldt, the anniversary memorial and tribute Monday will also be held online.

Mayor Rob Muench said the city had hoped to display some of the thousands of gifts it has received from around the world, but pandemic restrictions changed those plans.

At 4:50 p.m., the approximate time the crash occurred, church bells will toll and a moment of silence will follow.

“Even (with) the situation that’s taking place in the world right now,” Muench said, “it’s important that we do not let this fall through the cracks.”

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

Bill Graveland and Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

#humboldtstrongHumboldt Broncos

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

LETTER: CERB is simply worsening overdose issues in Maple Ridge

Taxpayer money is going to help buy more drugs and increase cases of death on local streets: Reader

Ridge Meadows Soccer welcomes former Whitecaps coach to club

Craig Dalrymple will join organization as new sporting director

Problems delay opening of sheets at Planet Ice Maple Ridge

Getting hold of parts, making repairs mean rinks won’t be available until January: facilities manager

SHARE: Smoky skies cast Alouette Lake in a rather haunting light

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read