Toronto: 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 in a statement that there were 28 people on the bus including the driver. Fourteen survivors were taken to various hospitals, with three in critical condition.
The bus was transporting the Humboldt Broncos ice hockey team 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.
On Saturday morning, the police had blocked off nearly 2 miles (3 km) of the highway between Tisdale and Nipawin and a few emergency vehicles were seen entering and leaving the scene of the accident.
Condolences were pouring in from 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.
Family and friends of the victims took to social media to express their grief with #prayersforhumboldt.
"The Broncos bus crashed on the way to Nipawin tonight Ryan is in hospital. There were fatalities and we are heartbroken. We will be flying out tomorrow," Michelle Straschnitzki said on Facebook regarding her son.
Established in 1970, The Humboldt Broncos are a team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, and play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
In the grief-stricken city of Humboldt, with a population of less than 6,000, mourners gathered in the town arena late on Friday, local newspaper Star Phoenix 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."