Bron­cos tat­too helps man deal with trauma of crash

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - AUSTIN M. DAVIS

Mark An­tonichuk spent a cou­ple years search­ing for his first tat­too, but noth­ing stood out.

The 47-year-old Moose Ja­vian fi­nally got inked af­ter the April 6 bus crash that claimed the lives of 16 peo­ple aboard the SJHL’s Hum­boldt Bron­cos’ team bus and left 13 oth­ers in­jured. As soon as the idea struck him the Tues­day af­ter the crash, An­tonichuk knew what he was get­ting.

“It’s def­i­nitely a heal­ing step,” he said. “It’s a memo­rial for those that are lost, those that are still there, and it’s a step for­ward for me — and there will have to be many of them.”

An­tonichuk, who in­stalls Fu­sion In­ter­net con­nec­tions in ru­ral ar­eas for Sask­Tel’s Sky Team, was re­turn­ing from a job north of Ni­pawin around 5 p.m. that Fri­day.

An­tonichuk says he was driv­ing the sec­ond ve­hi­cle that ar­rived on the south­bound shoul­der af­ter the Bron­cos’ bus col­lided with a semi­trailer unit on High­way 35.

“We were within five min­utes of it hap­pen­ing,” An­tonichuk said. “There was a lot of chaos go­ing on. There were al­ready some blan­kets and jack­ets on scene. I grabbed my spare jacket and it stayed be­hind on the scene. I don’t care — it was used to keep some­one warm. It went to good use.”

An­tonichuk es­ti­mates he and his work part­ner, Kirk Reed, were on scene for about 15 min­utes be­fore the first emer­gency re­spon­der ar­rived. An­tonichuk and Reed worked on op­po­site sides of the dev­as­ta­tion. Both wanted to do what­ever they could to help. An­tonichuk stayed with a young man from the bus, try­ing to keep

him calm and still, hold­ing his neck un­til paramedics took over.

“We all see pic­tures of other ac­ci­dents, but noth­ing can de­scribe what you ac­tu­ally see when you’re ac­tu­ally on scene,” An­tonichuk said. “My heart goes out to all the fam­i­lies in­volved.”

An­tonichuk knows the images are for­ever etched in his mind, but he still wor­ries about how af­fected fam­i­lies and first re­spon­ders are do­ing. For his part, An­tonichuk cred­its the sup­port from his fam­ily and friends for his abil­ity to cope.

Through a fam­ily friend, An­tonichuk dis­cov­ered Vivid Ink Stu­dios in Stoughton. He sent the owner, Crys­tal Be­gin, his con­cept of the Bron­cos em­blem with ban­ners above and be­low read­ing, “With you on the scene, with you for­ever.” Her only change was to add an an­gel wing.

A can­cel­la­tion got An­tonichuk in one of Vivid’s chairs Thurs­day for a five to seven hour ses­sion. Be­gin, whom An­tonichuk calls “a beau­ti­ful per­son,” even came in on a day off so she could do the piece.

On top of that, she re­fused to charge him for the work.

“As a mother, it broke my heart that so many lives were lost, and many oth­ers were fight­ing for their lives,” Be­gin said in a mes­sage.

“I wouldn’t feel com­fort­able charg­ing for a tat­too, for some­one who was there and had to wit­ness it all. And I know that so many other tat­too artists would have done the same if they were in the same po­si­tion.”

She said it was an hon­our to do An­tonichuk’s tat­too. While it was an emo­tional day, “it would also have been very hard for both of us to do our part if we were over­whelmed with emo­tion and tears.”

The stu­dio is of­fer­ing the same deal to any­one that was di­rectly in­volved with the ac­ci­dent or on the scene who wants a memo­rial piece. “It is just who I am,” Be­gin said.

Pho­tos of the tat­too on Vivid’s Face­book page have been shared more than 2,000 times.

An­tonichuk says the post’s reach has been heart­warm­ing and mind­bog­gling.

“It def­i­nitely makes you feel good that so many peo­ple are com­ing to­gether over some­thing so tragic,” An­tonichuk said.

VIVID INK STU­DIOS

Pho­tos of Mark An­tonichuk’s tat­too hon­our­ing the Hum­boldt Bron­cos have al­ready been shared more than 2,000 times on his Face­book page. He was one of the first passersby to come upon the crash scene.

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