Hundreds of people gathered in Humboldt, Sask., Sunday night to mourn those killed and injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
The vigil, organized by the Saskatchewan government and local faith leaders, began early in the evening from the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Broncos junior league hockey team.
Fifteen people died from the Friday collision between a bus carrying the Broncos and a semi-trailer. Another fourteen were injured.
“I don’t want to be here. But it’s good that we are,” team pastor Sean Brandow said in the night’s most emotional speech.
Brandow said he drove the same route to Friday night’s scheduled game against the Nipawin Hawks and came across the wreckage of the crash, later coming “to sit and hold the hand of a lifeless body.”
Brandow spoke with the photos of the dead Broncos players before him, saying it reminded him of sitting behind the team bench during games.
“I stared at the back of your players’ heads just like I’m doing right now. I sit there because I want to see the names on their jerseys.”
He concluded, “Can we heal? Yes. Will the scars be there? Yes.”
“We will get through this,” Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said to the packed arena dotted with people wearing the green-and-yellow Broncos jersey, including Muench himself.
“It’s now 7:32 p.m.,” said emcee and Rev. Matteo Carboni. “The Humboldt Broncos game [on Friday] would have started at 7:30.”
He then led the crowd into a minute of silence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe were at the rink, but did not make public remarks. The ceremony included hymns, reading from scripture and music.
Hundreds of people lined up to enter the arena before doors opened to the public at 6 p.m. CST.
Coach’s Corner co-host Don Cherry was also there.
An overflow room for the event had already filled up by 6:30 p.m. CST.
‘We’re with you, we’re behind you’
Earlier in the day, Muench said his phone had been flooded with calls and texts from complete strangers offering the community support in the wake of the crash.
“Just a number and an area code from I don’t even know where saying, ‘We’re with you, we’re behind you, here’s a poem I wrote, here’s a song.”
Muench’s phone then rang several times.
People also gathered at Saskatoon’s city hall and at the arena in Prince Albert, Sask., to honour the Broncos Sunday night.