The chaplain of the Vancouver Giants opened up his church on Sunday night in hopes of helping his community come to terms with the crash that claimed 15 lives in Saskatchewan.
Police say that 15 people have died and 14 were injured after a tractor-trailer collided with the Humboltd Broncos bus on Highway 35. The team had been on its way to Game 5 of a semi-final playoff series against the Nipawin Hawks Friday evening.
“I identify very closely with what they’re going through and I can’t imagine if that’d been a call about our bus, how devastating that would be,” said Lighthouse Church pastor Danny Stebeck.
“I’m really feeling their pain.”
On Sunday morning, the death toll stood at 15, including head coach Darcy Haugan, former Surrey Eagle Jaxon Joseph, bus driver Glen Doerksen, sports reporter Tyler Bieber, and 11 players. Adam Herold, 16, was the youngest victim.
Of the 14 in hospital, only 20-year-old Nick Shumlanski has been released so far.
Although Humboldt is two provinces away, Stebeck said that the far-flung nature of hockey means that everyone in the community is affected.
“The hockey community is so close, there’s people all over the Metro Vancouver area that are feeling it,” said Stebeck.
“I just wanted to show support and provide a space for people to grieve.”
The pain is especially poignant in Ladner, which hosts the practice arena for the Vancouver Giants.
Although their season has ended and the players are back home with their families, Stebeck said the community is in mourning – as are the players.
“I’ve reached out to especially those [players] in Saskatchewan,” he said.
“One of the kids had a friend who lost his life in this bus crash, other are connected in various ways and they’re really feeling it.”
As a pastor, Stebeck is sadly familiar with tragedy.
“For people going through the deep hurt right now, the first step is just to acknowledge it, and allow it,” he said.
“We too often push it out of the way and try to carry on and pretend that we’re okay.”
A GoFundMe for the team had reached nearly $4.5 million as of Sunday morning.
The Ladner vigil took place at 6 p.m. at the Lighthouse Church and coincided with one being held at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to attend the Humboldt vigil.