Canada grieves after junior hockey team bus crash leaves 15 dead


Two Saskatchewan cousins are rallying behind those affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy by writing a tribute song.

The Broncos website says Joseph, who was 20 years old, was among the leading scorers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs, playing on a line with Logan Schatz, another player who lost his life in the crash.

The Humboldt Broncos are a close-knit team from the small city of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, which has a population of about 6,000.

"I can honestly say I didn't know a more kind-hearted, generous, caring and overall nice person", cousin Graeme Cross said in an online tribute.

Rob Eichorst, the team's governor, said Sunday's interdenominational vigil was organized by local religious leaders "for healing of the community, the hockey team, the province, the country".

The crash sent shock waves through the team's small hometown.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences on Twitter.

"Thankfully people recognize that families are coming from far distances who have to sit now with children who have been critically injured", said Armstrong.

In a country where ice hockey is a national sport, news of the crash sparked an outpouring of grief on social media, with fans and players alike sharing messages of condolences using the hashtag #PrayforHumboldt. The details from this tragedy are absolutely horrific in nature and know that you all are in our thoughts and prayers.

In the early hours of Saturday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police inspector Ted Munro said rescue efforts were ongoing and said they had set up an information and support centre for families at the Nipawin Apostolic Church.

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Aerial footage showed the bus on its side, its roof peeled back and its front end destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.

Highway 335 has stop signs with flashing warning lights at the intersection with 35, but no rumble strips that are featured at many rural highway junctions. Like Poggemiller, he said trees obscure visibility at the junction and make it a risky intersection.

The cause of the collision is still under investigation and police said investigators will be looking at a number of possible factors, including road conditions and mechanical issues.

"It's overwhelming. It's been tough on everybody", Muench said.

"Words cannot describe the loss that we feel tonight", Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Facebook.

Friday's crash is not the first highway accident to kill hockey players in Saskatchewan.

The team was heading to Nipawin for a playoff game at the time of the crash.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is a junior "A" hockey league under Hockey Canada, which is part of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. It's open to North American-born players between the ages of 16 and 20.

"Mark was in his element in the hockey arena and I could think of no better mentor for junior hockey players to have than Mark Cross".

"I can't even imagine being a parent, or the wife, or the kids at home, going through something like this", he said.