Canadian Officials Say Body in Bus Crash Misidentified
HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP) — Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice said Monday one of the deceased in the crash that killed 15 people en route to a hockey playoff game was misidentified, partly because the players all had blond-dyed hair and similar builds.
The ministry said the body of Parker Tobin was mistaken for that of Xavier Labelle.
It said Labelle is injured but alive, and Tobin is among the deceased. The accident occurred Friday. Drew Wilby, spokesman for the ministry, said the error was discovered Sunday night.
"The new information came to light last night that raised questions with the health care professionals. In turn they were able to identify Xavier Labelle as Xavier Labelle who of course we had previously said was Parker Tobin," Wilby said.
"A lot of these boys looked alike. They had the blond hair that was supportive of their team for their playoff run. They had very similar builds and all very similar ages."
Wilby and the Office of the Chief Coroner apologized for the misidentification.
"To find who they had thought was their loved one wasn't their loved one I can't even fathom," Wilby said. "I don't know enough could ever be said. All I could do is offer our sincerest apologies."
The news comes as this shattered town mourned its revered local youth hockey team, trying to come to grips with a devastating highway accident Friday that also injured the other 14 people on their bus.
Over the weekend, Tobin'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 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," Garinger said. "It's not about understanding anything."
People filed into the team's home arena Sunday night for a vigil, filing up entry steps piled with flowers, jerseys 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 Friday night and heard sounds of people he knew dying after a semi-trailer slammed 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," 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.
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 truck that hit the bus was initially detained but later released and provided with mental health assistance. Police have given no cause for the wreck, saying a lot of issues remained to be investigated, including weather conditions at the
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 Kleenex were passed down rows.
Flowers ringed the team logo at center ice. Pictures of the dead and injured stood in front of the audience.
Nick Shumlanski, an injured player who was released from the 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 Sunday and then attended the vigil. He sat among the crowd with his 11-year-old son, Xavier, who is a hockey player.
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.
Forwards Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan and defensemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold, 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. Garinger said the team won't 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.