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HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP):

A hockey arena became the epicentre of grief for a small Canadian town on Sunday as friends, relatives, and those who housed the young hockey players gathered to mourn 15 people killed after a semitrailer slammed into a bus carrying a youth hockey team in western Canada.

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Fourteen were also injured, some critically, in a collision that left a country, its national sport, and the hockey-obsessed town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, reeling.

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The bus had 29 passengers, including the driver, when it crashed at about 5 p.m. on Friday on Highway 35, police said. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz, and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

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Residents of this town of less than 6,000 have been leaving flowers, team jerseys, and personal tributes on the steps of the arena’s entrance, forming a makeshift memorial. One tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favourite meal of deceased forward Evan Thomas. A bouquet of pink roses adorned the box, which read ‘To Evan, game day special, love, your billet brother and sister, Colten and Shelby’.

While most of the players were from elsewhere in western Canada, they were put up by families in the small town of Humboldt. Billeting families are a large part of junior hockey, with players spending years with host families.

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Dennis Locke, his wife, and his three young children came to the arena to hang posters of forward Jaxon Joseph, who is the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph. The Locke family housed Joseph and treated him like a son

“Best person ever,” Locke said. “Down to earth, loved playing with the kids.”

His wife wiped away tears from swollen eyes

Forward Logan Hunter and defensemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold and Xavier Labelle were also among the dead, according to family members and others. Assistant coach Mark Cross, bus driver Glen Doerksen and stats keeper Brody Hinz, who was 18, were also killed

Herold, who would have turned 17 on Thursday, played for the Regina Pat Canadians hockey team until just weeks ago, but was sent to join the Broncos for their playoff round when the Pat Canadians’ season wrapped up, said John Smith, the Pat Canadians’ manager

The names of all the dead and injured have not been released by police

As is the case with small town hockey across Canada, he said, the arena is not just a recreation facility, but a focus of community life with the hockey team at its centre

Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not hurt, was initially detained but has since been released and provided with mental health assistance. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said it’s too early to state a cause for the crash

Photographs of the wreckage showed the twisted trailer with most of its wheels in the air and the bus on its side with its back portion destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection

The tractor-trailer would have had to yield to a stop sign before crossing over the highway that the hockey bus was travelling on. There is a stand of trees on the southeast corner of the intersection, limiting visibility of the approach on both roads

Police said a lot of issues have to be investigated, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles

Con información de: Jamaica Gleaner

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