Canada has spent the weekend shocked by the road accident which claimed lives of a team of young players in one of the country’s favourite sports, ice hockey.
The 15 people who died in the coach carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior team include 10 players, the bus driver, two coaches, a volunteer statistician and a broadcaster in Saskatchewan province where the tragedy occurred.
Another 14 people were injured and taken to hospital after the collision with a semi-trailer on Highway 35, north of Tisdale – the truck driver escaped unhurt.
The ice hockey players are believed to be aged between 16 and 21. The crash has plunged the 6,000-strong community of Humboldt into grief. Among those killed was team coach Darcy Haugan.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to attend a vigil in the small farming town on Sunday night, to honour the victims.
Police are still trying to determine the cause of the accident and are studying road, weather and vehicle conditions.
Photos posted on social media showed injured team players in hospital holding hands.
Ice hockey is an integral part of Humboldt’s identity; the sport unifies the town and has brought home two national championships.
Residents and team supporters gathered at a sports complex on Sunday to comfort each other. By this time an online fundraising initiative to help victims’ families had raised C$3.05 million (US $2.4 million, €1.94 million).
The vigil was organised by local religious leaders “for healing of the community, the hockey team, the province, the country,” said the team’s governor Rob Eichorst. “.
The Broncos compete in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), a competitive “A” division league for players under age 21.
The team was on the way to a playoff game when the crash occurred Friday evening.
The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, said the bus was carrying 29 passengers at the time of the crash. The driver of the truck was not injured, the RCMP said.
The exact cause of the collision is still under investigation and the identities of several of the victims have not been made public.