Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Bill Grav­e­land

Town busi­nesses step­ping up to as­sist in af­ter­math of ac­ci­dent

Atragic bus crash that has sunk a Saskatchewan com­mu­nity into deep sor­row has also re­leased an in­cred­i­ble dis­play of hu­man kind­ness as res­i­dents strug­gle to deal with their grief.

Sixteen peo­ple died, in­clud­ing 10 play­ers, and an­other 13 were in­jured af­ter a trans­port truck and the bus tak­ing the Hum­boldt Bron­cos to a Saskatchewan Ju­nior Hockey League play­off game on April 6 col­lided at a ru­ral in­ter­sec­tion.

The driver of the truck was un­in­jured.

Peo­ple across Canada and from around the world have opened their hearts and wal­lets. A GoFundMe cam­paign for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies has sur­passed $10 mil­lion — one of the largest drives ever.

Hum­boldt’s only florist has re­ceived hun­dreds of or­ders from as far away as Aus­tralia to send flowers to any­one and ev­ery­one af­fected by the crash.

The Canalta Ho­tel of­fered free rooms to family mem­bers trav­el­ling to the small Saskatchewan city af­ter the crash, and pro­vided food and sup­port.

“Peo­ple were phon­ing and mak­ing reser­va­tions and they’re just cry­ing and they can hardly get the words out,” said ho­tel gen­eral man­ager Mary-Jane Wilkin­son.

“We’d say don’t worry about a credit card. Don’t worry about any­thing. We’d just get their name and get them booked in so they have a place to put their heads down.”

For Wilkin­son the ac­ci­dent hit close to home. Her son Richard played hockey in Hum­boldt from the age of six.

“I’ve taken him to the hockey bus so many times to go on road trips, and put his equip­ment on buses and dropped him off,” she said.

“That was re­ally hard for me be­cause the re­al­ity was it could have been my kid.”

Restau­rants have handed out free food. In one in­stance, an in­di­vid­ual driv­ing through a Tim Hor­tons bought cof­fee for the next 50 peo­ple in line.

Bos­ton Pizza, a pop­u­lar hang­out for the team, im­me­di­ately gave time off to staff who were friends with the play­ers. Servers from other restau­rants in the chain came to Hum­boldt to cover things off.

One of the man­agers, Rino Fer­reras, said he wasn’t sur­prised at the com­mu­nity sup­port.

“Ev­ery­body knows each other, so ev­ery­body is giving their help­ing hands right away with­out think­ing about get­ting any­thing in re­turn,” he said. “That’s what they want to do — give love and give help.”

The food man­ager for the City of Hum­boldt said he has watched semi-trail­ers full of water, soda and ed­i­bles come into the Hum­boldt Uni­plex ev­ery day.

“We want for noth­ing,” said Alex Wil­son.

Myles Shum­lan­ski, whose son Nick sur­vived the crash, said the pub­lic sup­port has been un­be­liev­able.

“Ev­ery­where you go, ev­ery­body wants to help you out. Nick’s keys for his ve­hi­cle got lost. One of his bosses just phoned (and said) ‘We’re go­ing to drop him off a truck and a card key so tell him he’s good.’

“Ev­ery­body just wants to help. They just wish they could do more. It’s ev­ery­where.”

Former NHL player Shel­don Kennedy, who was with the West­ern Hockey League Swift Current Bron­cos and on the team bus when it crashed in 1986, said hockey is be­yond im­por­tant for small towns.

“You knew peo­ple were go­ing to feel that they needed to help and give and show their sup­port. In those com­mu­ni­ties the only way they can op­er­ate a hockey team is by ev­ery­body pulling on the rope.” Wilkin­son agrees. “Even if you’re not in­volved in hockey here ... it’s all about the Bron­cos in this com­mu­nity.”

Cana­dian Press photo

Com­mu­nity mem­bers en­ter me­mo­rial ser­vice for Lo­gan Schatz, cap­tain of the Hum­boldt Bron­cos, one of 16 peo­ple killed in the hockey team’s bus crash ear­lier this month.

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