HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - A small farming town in Canada’s Saskatchewan province will hold a vigil Sunday evening to pray for the survivors of a bus crash which killed 15 people and left 14 others in hospital, some in critical condition.
The Friday night accident sent shock waves across a hockey-loving nation, devastated the Humboldt Broncos ice hockey team and plunged the community of fewer than 6,000 people into grief.
The crash, one of the worst to hit the Canadian sporting community, happened while the team was traveling to a league playoff game in the town of Nipawin, about 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Humboldt.
The bus collided with a semi-trailer truck. Canadian police are looking into road conditions, weather conditions and mechanical conditions of the vehicles.
Townspeople and team supporters gathered at the local Uniplex sports and education complex to comfort each other, and an online fund-raising initiative to help the victims’ families has raised C$3.05 million ($2.4 million).
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” and will be attended by Humboldt mayor Rob Muench, among others.
“There’s no playbook on how to handle this,” Eichorst said, “people are bringing food ... We’ve got multinational companies helping us, we’ve got national companies offering stuff. The support is overwhelming and truly appreciated”.
He estimated 300 to 400 people had gathered at the complex Friday evening to support each other. Grief counselors are on hand and the Red Cross is providing support to players’ families as well as the families who billet players.
($1 = 1.2778 Canadian dollars)
Reporting by Katherine Fitzpatrick in HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by James Dalgleish