SASKATOON — Evan Thomas ate Fruit Loops for breakfast, went to the rink for a skate, then had a nap before boarding the Humboldt Broncos bus for a playoff game.
During the April 6 highway drive to Nipawin, Sask., the 18-year-old exchanged messages on Snapchat with friends.
The messages stopped about 5 p.m.
Scott Thomas recounted his son’s last moments at a memorial service Monday in the family’s hometown of Saskatoon.
“His friend and teammate Brayden Camrud has told us one of the last things he remembers is looking at the front of the bus, seeing Evan pull his dress shirt on, tie on, flip his fingers through his hair and the lights went out,” said Thomas.
He told the crowd that his son died of multiple skull fractures.
“We’ve been told that he died instantly. He did not suffer. There is some peace in that.”
Evan Thomas was one of 16 killed when the bus and a semi truck hauling peat moss collided at a rural intersection north of Tisdale. Thirteen others were injured, including Camrud, and several remain in hospital.
Scott Thomas said that his son’s cellphone was recovered after the crash and there wasn’t a scratch on it. And his body, except for his head, was in near perfect condition.
“My opinion is it was because Evan was standing — simply standing, putting his suit on. He was struck by the upper cabinets of the bus and killed instantly,” he said.
“That’s how random this was. Sitting, standing, front, back. Completely random. And vicious.”
Thomas said he has given up asking himself why the accident happened.
An outpouring of grief and support from people around the world has helped ease some of the pain, he said.
“It could have happened on any bus on any stretch on any road in any part of Canada to any hockey team,” he said. ”I think that is why it has ripped through everybody so hard.”
About 3,000 people attended the service at SaskTel Centre, where friends and former teammates donned jerseys with the name Thomas on the back and raised hockey sticks over the heads of his family members as they walked by.
Dozens of audio and video tributes described a humble and respectful young man who wanted a career in medicine because he wanted to help others. He could pull 95 per cent in almost any subject, with little effort. And he won a top science award in Grade 11.
Some said Thomas, also known as E.T., had a wicked sense of humour. He perfected making Kraft Dinner, which he usually ate out of a pot. And he was addicted to Tim Hortons iced cappuccinos.
He loved hockey but also played baseball and, no matter the sport, was a dedicated teammate.
“My grandson was one of a kind,” said Marg Ellard.
Thomas lived with Ellard for two seasons when he played hockey in Moose Jaw. He snuck his girlfriend in through a basement window, unplugged the home’s security camera and hosted parties, she said.
He also passed his driver’s licence on his first try, she added. And she would give anything to have him back again.
Camrud, 19, received minor injuries in the crash and has attended the funerals of his teammates in between visiting those still in hospital.
He plans to play hockey again once he’s fully healed.
“I’m sure that’s what they would want,” Camrud said after the memorial.
“I’m going to play for them and I’m going to think about each and every one of them when I step out onto the ice.”
Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press