The bus returning the University of Alberta Pandas hockey to Edmonton from a game in Calgary on Nov. 24 clipped a semi that was pulled over on the highway. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

‘First thing you think about is Humboldt:’ Women hockey players recall crash

EDMONTON — For the first couple of minutes after the crash, no one on the University of Alberta Pandas hockey team bus knew what had happened.

Captain Cayle Dillon heard a big boom and felt the cold.

Abby Benning, who plays defence, heard a pop, then glass breaking and what sounded like marbles hitting the floor.

Goalie Kirsten Chamberlin, who had music blasting through her earphones, said everything looked white.

“It was pretty scary. It was pretty crazy to think it happened, that we got into an accident,” said Dillon, who also plays defence.

The women were returning to Edmonton from a game in Calgary about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 24 when their chartered bus clipped a semi that was pulled over on the highway.

“The first thing you think about is Humboldt,” recalled Chamberlin, 20.

Sixteen people — including 10 players and the head coach — were killed and 13 players were injured in April when a semi and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League collided at a rural crossroads.

Dillon, 21, went to high school with one of the injured players, Derek Patter, who’s back with the Broncos this season.

Benning knew two of the players who died — Jaxon Joseph and Stephen Wack — through school and hockey in the Edmonton area.

“What are the odds?” Benning said. “When I clued into what was actually happening, I thought this is what the boys heard when they were on the bus. This is how they felt.

“I’m not trying to be over-dramatic but it felt like we were going to die because nobody knew what was happening.”

Coach Howie Draper and some of the players had cuts on their faces. Two teammates were taken to hospital with minor injuries, including glass in their eyes.

Everyone is back on the ice now and some players are adding their voices to a call from some Broncos parents for mandatory seatbelts on team buses.

“It’s a pretty easy thing to do that can save your life,” said Chamberlin.

There have been no changes by Hockey Canada, the national governing body for the sport. But some leagues, including the Saskatchewan junior league, have made seatbelt use a priority.

Several teams have already made it a habit to wear seatbelts on buses and tweet under the #buckleupforthebroncos hashtag.

The movement grew after Tricia Wack, whose son Stephen died in the Broncos crash, wrote an opinion piece that ran in newspapers across the country.

Former NHLer Chris Joseph, who lost his son Jaxon, has also said he’d like to see regular seatbelt use on buses.

“It’s crazy. We all are comfortable wearing seatbelts in cars. We don’t mind wearing seatbelts on airplanes. Yet somehow we get on a bus and feel like we’re safe,” he said.

The issue was also raised after a fatal bus crash involving the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League in 1986.

Four players were killed when the bus hit a patch of black ice, struck an approach and landed on its side. Many of the 24 others on the bus were injured.

A coroner’s inquest report, which was obtained through a freedom-of-information request, said three of the four died from spinal injuries they received when they were thrown upwards into the roof of the bus. The fourth died when he was crushed by the bus.

The coroner recommended that legislation be enacted that would require team buses to be equipped with seatbelts and would ensure they were used.

But there was no followup and there have been no changes at the provincial level since the Humboldt crash. The federal government announced in June that all newly built highway buses will be required to have seatbelts by September 2020.

Some charter bus companies point out that many new buses already have seatbelts, but there is no way to ensure everyone is wearing them.

On the night of the Pandas crash, most team members were wearing seatbelts when the bus left Calgary because the roads were icy, Benning said.

“We’ve made the Calgary road trip so many times,” she said. “Everyone was trying to get some sleep … so some of the girls for sure took seatbelts off trying to get cosy.”

She and the others expect they will make it a habit and try to get the word out to other players.

“You don’t think it’s going to happen to your team or your friends or your family, but that’s not how the world works,” Chamberlin said.

“It’s just luck of the draw.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shaun Janse van Rensburg, a Red Deer resident, said he is tired of changing clocks twice a year. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
After COVID, Kenney may consider referendum on daylight savings

Albertans may be divided on several issues today, but there’s a consensus… Continue reading

COVID-19-death toll in Alberta reached 309 according to numbers posted on the province’s website Tuesday afternoon. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another 422 COVID cases reported in Alberta and two more deaths

The Alberta government confirmed 422 COVID-19 cases Tuesday and two more virus… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
COVID-19 death toll verges on 10,000 as second wave continues to surge

Nearly 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a mark of the… Continue reading

The Red Deer RCMP has filed another set of charges after an alleged assault at an anti-racism rally on Sept. 20. (File photo by Advocate Staff)
More assault charges filed after Sept. 20 anti-racism rally in Red Deer

Trevor Lyle Roy faces a second set of charges stemming from the event

Your weather forecast for Thursday, August 1st, 2019. (Pixabay)
Expect a slightly windy day in Red Deer Tuesday

Expect a slightly windy day in Red Deer. Although as of noon… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The TMX Group logo, home of the TSX, is shown in Toronto on June 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
North American stock markets flat a week ahead of U.S. election

North American stock markets flat a week ahead of U.S. election

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adjusts his mask as he leaves a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. About 130 tech CEOs in Canada are accusing the prime minister of ignoring the needs of the innovation economy and being slow to enact data and intellectual property policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We need a champion in government’: Tech CEOs want prosperity strategy from Trudeau

‘We need a champion in government’: Tech CEOs want prosperity strategy from Trudeau

The corporate logo of Teck Resources Limited is shown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Vancouver miner says sale of oilsands stake more likely as output allowed to rise

Vancouver miner says sale of oilsands stake more likely as output allowed to rise

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Feds split rapid-housing cash between big cities, offer up rest for projects

Feds split rapid-housing cash between big cities, offer up rest for projects

Cilantro and Chive Owner Rieley Kay is set to open a second location, this time in Red Deer. (Todd Colin Vaughan/Lacombe Express)
Cilantro and Chive excited to open second location

New spot will open early in 2021 and is located near Westerner Park

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Rebels on 2021 NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch list

A trio of Red Deer Rebels has caught scouts’ eyes ahead of… Continue reading

Most Read