(Repeats to widen distribution)
By Matt Smith
TISDALE, Saskatchewan, April 7 (Reuters) - Fourteen people were killed when a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey team collided with a truck in Saskatchewan province, police said on Saturday, sending shock waves across the hockey-loving nation.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said there were 29 people on the bus including the driver. Fifteen survivors were taken to various hospitals, with three in critical condition. Police had previously said there were 28 on the bus.
The Humboldt Broncos ice hockey team were traveling to a playoff game when the accident occurred at about 5:00 p.m. on Friday near the Tisdale area, around 185 miles (300 km) north of Regina, the Canadian Press reported.
“Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the families of our staff and athletes as well as to all who have been impacted by this horrible tragedy,” Kevin Garinger, the team’s president, said in a statement.
“Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss.”
The team was headed to play in Game 5 of a playoff series against the Nipawin Hawks.
Darren Opp, president of the Nipawin Hawks, was quoted by the Globe and Mail newspaper as saying the truck, a semi-trailer, had T-boned the players’ bus.
“It’s a horrible accident, my God,” he said. “It’s very, very bad.”
The cause of the accident could not be immediately confirmed, however, and police said nothing about the identity of the dead or condition of the truck driver.
Citing relatives, the Canadian Press reported that the Broncos’ head coach Darcy Haugan and the team’s 20-year-old captain, Logan Schatz, were among those killed.
Many social media users posted Haugan’s photograph alongside messages of shock and sympathy, and the hashtags #prayersforhumboldt and #humboldtstrong.
“God bless Darcy Haugan for being an incredible mentor and coach to young hockey players and prayers for his family to help cope with their immense loss,” the Western Provinces Hockey Association wrote on Twitter.
Police had blocked off nearly 2 miles (3 km) of the highway between Tisdale and Nipawin on Saturday. A few emergency vehicles were seen entering and leaving the scene of the accident.
Condolences poured in from current and former hockey players, sports organizations and political leaders across the country.
“I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote in a tweet.
In a post on Twitter, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had spoken with Trudeau “to pay my highest respect and condolences to the families of the terrible Humboldt Team tragedy. May God be with them all!”
Pastor Jordan Gadsby of Nipawin’s Apostolic Church said hundreds of people, including parents and relatives of players on the bus, had gathered at the church late on Friday to seek information and solace.
“The worst part of the night was watching parents waiting for news of their kids,” he said. “There’s not a lot we can do. It’s a terrible thing that happened.”
An online fundraising campaign for the affected players and their families, with an initial target of $10,000, was set up late on Friday by the mother of a former Broncos teammate. By lunchtime on Saturday it had raised more than $750,000.
“Stay Hockey family strong,” wrote one donor on the GoFundMe site who said he was a coach from rural Saskatchewan.
Established in 1970, The Humboldt Broncos play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
In grief-stricken Humboldt, home to fewer than 6,000 people, mourners gathered in the city’s arena late on Friday, local newspaper the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported.
“This is the hub of our community,” Mayor Rob Muench told the newspaper. “We’ve got the curling rink here, we’ve got the arena, we’ve got the convention center. Everything from weddings to funerals to gatherings to hockey games — this is where it all happens in the community. This is where we get together.” (Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee Writing by Denny Thomas in Toronto; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Tom Brown)