Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Humboldt Broncos

Hat tip to Jade for asking me to write about something I'd rather not. It forces me to exercise writing muscles I don't exercise often enough.

Why don't I want to write about this? Let me count the reasons:

  • it's heartwrenching
  • the investigation is still ongoing at this time, and I've been burned more than once with unfounded speculation
  • I shied away from even looking at the news on this, because
  • it's heartwrenching
  • everyone else has already written reams and screens
  • it's heartwrenching.

Jade....I'm not the writer for this. As much of a fan as I am of hockey, I have never played it, or any other team sport, at any level.  I've never billeted anywhere, as members of the Humboldt Broncos would have. I've logged a fair amount of time on busses. That's it. I...I'm going to struggle with this.

For you. More importantly, for them

Okay. Must get up a head of writing steam.

One of the nice things about working retail -- they do exist -- is that you develop relationships with the different vendors and (sometimes) drivers that visit you. Some of the drivers you see three times a week for years. Some of the drivers are also vendor representatives, and here I'm thinking of a wonderful man by the name of Rick Kent

Rick wasn't the only member of my retail family to pass prematurely. 

I saw my Natrel driver--God, I'm so ashamed I can't recall his name--twice a week for several years. He, like Rick, was always smiling. He was quick with a joke, and he loved to hear mine...we'd store them up for each other. He was one of those people I looked forward to seeing. A reason to get out of bed. 

And then one day someone else had his route. Happens all the time, really, except the man who had his route was crying the first time I saw him.

It turned out that Natrel driver--a father of three, I recall that detail--had been killed instantly when a dump truck pulled out in front of him. There are few things that beat a tractor trailer, but a fully loaded dump truck is one of them. 

In the calculus of tragedy, which you don't want to even think about because it minimizes the horrific,  one father of three doesn't hold a candle to fifteen dead, fourteen injured. Except tragedy is tragedy. His kids are fatherless, his wife's a widow, and he touched many lives, some deeply, some peripherally, and...pain.

Now take the specifics of that horrific collision and...expand them. Substitute the dump truck for a tractor trailer hauling peat moss. Change the milk truck into a...

into a....


My father was OPP for 38 years, working the highways in western Toronto, then decades of patrolling highway 69 in near northern Ontario. He has seen more carnage than any human being should ever even contemplate, and I've railed repeatedly against his habit of sending me crash scene pictures. Anyone who knows me now or ever knew me knows I have less than zero interest in seeing shattered steel and shattered bodies. I think he thinks it's supposed to toughen me up. With all due respect -- and I have an immense amount of respect for the first responders like my father who are confronted with this kind of thing on an all-too-frequent basis...I'm not one of you. I look at these pictures and I go to pieces inside every time. 

I saw the crash scene outside Tisdale. I didn't mean to. The picture scrolled into view and at first I had no idea what I was looking at. And when I did...I had no words to express it. There are no words for that level of devastation. There is only the sickening knowledge that fifteen people died here, and fourteen more were injured, many of whom doubtless wish they could have died themselves. I won't link this--if you haven't seen the crash scene pictures, do yourself a favour and DON'T go looking for them. 

As I said, the investigation is ongoing, We do know the conditions were cold but clear...but the sun was setting and reflecting at a 28 degree angle off the snow, and the truck which struck the bus was travelling directly into that sunset.  The bus had the right of way; the truck had a stop sign, to which flashing lights were added after a crash at that intersection killed six in 1997.

I will offer one observation. The crash occurred at an intersection of two highways, 35 and 335, both with posted speed limits of 100 km/h. 

Stop sign notwithstanding, I can't think of an intersection like this anywhere in Ontario. I can't even think of a place where a road marked at 100 km/hr intersects with anything, let alone another road marked at 100 km/hr. I'm not well-travelled; maybe such things are commonplace on the Prairies. It still strikes me as horrible design. 


The Broncos bus was less than 20 km from its destination when fifteen lives were snuffed and countless others forever altered. You think first of the families, of course, missing sons, fathers, brothers, partners. Then you think of the billet families, which get to be second families over the course of any season, and the pain they're suffering. I find myself thinking about the truck driver, who walked away unscathed. Regardless of any fault which may or may not exist (I stress, the investigation is still ongoing and speculation is more damaging than anything)--walking away from a crash that kills fifteen is its own personal hell, from which some people never escape. 

Something like this, the grief ripples out and covers a multitude. I guarantee you every member of every junior team, no matter the sport, is thinking about all that time on the bus. It's a big country, Canada is, and there's a lot of miles logged bussing from game to game. You're sitting there,  talking to your teammate, or maybe -- if you're 20 km away -- getting your game face on and your thoughts checked and stowed....and then you're in immense pain, laying awkwardly, limbs pinned, next to the dead body of the friend you were just cracking wise to seconds earlier. Or you're that dead friend. I don't know what's better, what's worse. No, check that. There is no better. There is only worse. 

A final note.

It's gratifying to see the millions of dollars raised so quickly in the Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe campaign. It's also...so...pointless. Beyond funeral expenses, what good does mere money do here? It could be 1,000 times the $7.3 million raised and it still wouldn't bring a single one of the dead back to life. 

It hurts.

It hurts SO MUCH. 

In memoriam:

Parker Tobin, G, 18.
Darcy Haughan, head coach and GM, 42
Brody Hinz, volunteer statistician, 18
Logan Schatz, C, 20
Jaxon Joseph, F, 20
Adam Herold, D, 16
Mark Cross, assistant coach, 27
Tyler Beiber, radio announcer, 29
Stephen Wack, D, 21
Logan Hunter, F, 18
Connor Lukan, F, 21
Glen Doerksen,  bus driver, 59
Evan Thomas, F, 18
Jacob Leicht, F, 19
Logan Boulet, D, 21

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