Sunday 24 June 2018

Body in ice hockey team bus crash misidentified, say Canadian officials

Fifteen people were killed en route to an ice hockey playoff game in Canada.

Photos of people involved in a fatal bus crash are seen prior to a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
Photos of people involved in a fatal bus crash are seen prior to a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

By Jeremy Hainsworth and Rob Gillies, Associated Press

One of the deceased in a crash in Canada that killed 15 people en route to an ice hockey playoff game was misidentified, Saskatchewan’s ministry of justice said.

The ministry said the body of Parker Tobin was mistaken for that of Xavier Labelle. It said Xavier is injured but alive, and Parker is among the deceased.

The Office of the Chief Coroner has apologised for the misidentification. The ministry did not say how the error occurred.

“This was an identification error and Xavier is not deceased,” the statement said.

“Our condolences go out to the family of Parker Tobin. Unfortunately, Parker is one of the 15 that have lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. Parker had been misidentified and was previously believed to have survived.”

The news comes as this shattered town mourned its revered local youth hockey team, trying to come to grips with a devastating road accident on Friday that also injured the other 14 people on their bus.

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People look at photos of the victims during a vigil at the Elgar Petersen Arena (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Over the weekend, Parker’s family had tweeted that their son was alive.

“This is one of the hardest posts I have ever had to make. Parker is stable at the moment and being airlifted to Saskatoon hospital,” Rhonda Clarke Tobin wrote.

Meanwhile, Xavier Labelle’s family had confirmed his death over the weekend, with his brother Isaac writing in an Instagram post that he was heartbroken.

Humboldt mayor Rob Muench called it “an unfortunate mistake”.

“It’s hard to comprehend that,” he said.

Broncos club president Kevin Garinger said he was contacted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police early on Monday about it and said the error makes a difficult situation more challenging.

“At this point, I just want to reach out and support the families,” Mr Garinger said. “It’s not about understanding anything.”

People filed into the team’s home arena on Sunday night for a vigil, filing up entry steps piled with flowers, tops and personal mementos in a makeshift memorial.

At the vigil, Sean Brandow, the local pastor and team chaplain, described how he happened upon the horrific accident scene on Friday night and heard sounds of people he knew dying after a lorry crashed into the bus taking the team to a playoff game.

“We travelled up and arrived at the scene … and walked up on a scene I never want to see again, to sounds I never want to hear again,” Mr Brandow said.

The small town’s disaster was a blow, too, for Canada and its national sport.

Among the dead were Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

Mr Brandow said he was on his way to the Broncos game and arrived at the scene right after the collision.

He described hearing the cries and holding the hand of a lifeless body.

“To sit and hold the hand of a lifeless body,” he said. “All I saw was darkness and hurt and anguish and fear and confusion. And I had nothing. Nothing. I’m a pastor, I’m supposed to have something.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the driver of the lorry that hit the bus was initially detained but later released and provided with mental health assistance.

Police have given no cause for the crash, saying a lot of issues remained to be investigated, including weather conditions.

Mr Garinger, the team president, choked back tears as he read out the names of the 15 dead to those at the vigil.

People embraced each other, crying. Boxes of tissues were passed down rows.

Flowers ringed the team logo at centre ice. Pictures of the dead and injured stood in front of the audience.

Nick Shumlanski, an injured player who was released from hospital, attended the vigil wearing his white, green and yellow team jersey, with a bruise under his left eye.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the injured at the hospital on Sunday and then attended the vigil. He sat among the crowd with his 11-year-old son, Xavier, who is a hockey player.

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Justin Trudeau attends the vigil (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Most of the players were from elsewhere in western Canada and they lived with families in Humboldt, a town of about 6,000 people.

Families who provide homes for players are a large part of junior hockey in Canada, with players spending years with host families.

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

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

Forwards Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan and defencemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold and Logan Boulet 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.

The Broncos were a close-knit team who dyed their hair blond for the playoffs.

Mr Garinger said the team will not disband.

The home page of the team’s website was replaced with a silhouette of a man praying beneath the Broncos’ logo of a mustang.

Press Association

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