Communities across Canada – and around the world – are expressing shock, horror and grief, following the Saskatchewan bus crash that killed 15 members of a Junior A hockey club and injured another 14.
But the town of Princeton B.C. is also feeling something else – a renewed and profound sense of good fortune.
“It just makes you realize how lucky you are,” said Princeton Posse defenseman Morton Johnston.
Johnston received only minor injuries when the Junior B Posse’s team bus left the road and plunged down an embankment in the early hours of February 4, on the way home from a game in 100 Mile House.
“We were so lucky to get out of that with only a couple of scrapes and bruises. Everyone is just saying it’s a real tough situation, but we are lucky for who we have, who we still have with us.”
The driver of the Posse bus – who was credited with preventing a much more serious accident involving a rollover – was injured and taken to hospital, and others reported soft-tissue injuries.
“I launched over two seats…I landed on our starting goalie and he had a concussion and a separated shoulder.”
The deadly crash “really affects the whole hockey world,” said Johnston. “We’ve all been talking about it.”
The president of the Princeton Posse hockey club, Randy McLean, said the accident highlights the need to put safety first.
“Our recent experience of our bus sliding off the road, and this horrific accident, will only stiffen our resolve to provide the safest and most reliable transportation for our players and coaches in the future. There are so many lives at stake,” he said.
“Our hearts go out to the Humboldt parents, players and their organization. No words can hope to sustain the dreadful loss they are experiencing – young men being taken in the prime of their lives from parents who gave so much of their [lives] for them. Every team in our league is contributing to the fund to try and help at this time.”
Posse coach Mark McNaughton said the possibility of any kind of accident on the road is always in the back of a team’s mind.
“You think about it every time you are on the bus and obviously it could have been any team or organization that travels the way [teams] do in our country…It really could have been anybody else.”
McNaughton was in a hockey arena in Merritt when he learned of the Saskatchewan tragedy.
“It’s gut wrenching any time something like this happens. The initial thought is – knowing the size of the hockey community – the initial thought is ‘who do I know playing in Humboldt this year and who do I know on the staff.”
McNaughton communicated often with the Humboldt coach, who was killed. A player McNaughton was initially concerned for turned out to have been recently traded from the team.
“He wasn’t on the bus.”
Many Princeton families are promising on social media to participate in the BC-wide intiative to wear a sports jersey on Thursday April 12, in memory of the victims from Humboldt.
“Yes we will be wearing our jerseys on the 12th,” said Princeton hockey mom and volunteer Jaclyn Smith Whitecotton.
“And as a hockey family this has been stuck in our minds since it happened – such sadness for the hockey community all over Canada.
We are thankful that the bus accident with our very own Posse was not [like this.]”
Johnston said he and his entire family will don jerseys this Thursday as well.
“I hope everyone can show their support. It’s a really hard situation. I hope everyone sends their prayers and thoughts their way.”
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