Humboldt crash raises memories, solidarity from those who knew Boys in Red

When Chris Quinn heard about the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos, his heart went out to the parents of the team members who died. 

Early Friday evening, a bus taking the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team to a playoff game collided with a transport truck about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, Sask. 15 people died as a result of the crash, and 14 more were injured.

The Bathurst, N.B., father understands the pain the bereaved parents are feeling. His 16-year-old son, Nickolas was killed ten years ago on Jan 12, 2008 when the 15-passenger van he was travelling in collided with a transport truck

Nickolas was one of seven high school basketball players from Bathurst High School who became remembered as the Boys In Red. Their coach’s wife, a teacher at their school, also died. 

“Obviously, it put me back into a different place,” Quinn said of hearing about Friday’s accident. 

At the time of the Boys in Red tragedy Quinn said the community was a big source of strength to him. 

“The community is still quite strong even today. They’re there and it helps,” he said.  

While Quinn says he’s in a different place with his grief than he was a decade ago, it doesn’t lessen the pain of losing a child. 

“Some days I suppose I still think he’s around”

When asked what he did to help cope with his grief, Quinn hesitated before responding. 

“I don’t know. Some days I suppose I still think he’s around,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t deal with it the best.” 

But Quinn said his son’s friends and the community provided some comfort. 

“It’s ten years on. I’m not the man I was ten years ago, I’ll put it that way. I say I’ve moved on but yes and no. There’s definitely life decisions that it has affected.” 

A basketball memorial for the Boys in Red stands at the site of the accident on Highway 8. Quinn used to visit the location where the accident occurred near the Miramichi Avenue exit, where a memorial is located. 

“I don’t get back to that spot very often, to be honest with you, now. But you know, you do remember and stuff every year. Parents are going to be in a bad spot for a very long time.” 

“You do eventually move on I guess. To say it’s any less…I don’t feel the pain I once did. I still remember my son. I still remember the other boys. 

“It’s different I guess as time goes on.”

Strength in numbers

Quinn said his family and the families of the other six boys used to get together to grieve with others who were suffering in the same way.

“We all needed to do our own thing at some point as well. There was strength within the group and it did help,” he said. 

When asked what words of encouragement he would offer to the parents and community of Humboldt, Quinn said they need to be what they need to be and do what they need to do. 

“Remember their youth, their child, their son for what he was.” 

Quinn said each person will grieve in their own way and as more information is released about the accident, that will have an impact on each in a different way.

High school offers support

Bathurst High School principal Shaun MacDonald posted a message on the high school’s Facebook page Sunday morning saying he has offered condolences and assistance to the principal of the high school in Humboldt. 

“I offered an ear and an outside voice to call or cry with if he needed it.” 

Shaun MacDonald, principal at Bathurst High School, offered his support to the principal of the high school in Humboldt, Sask. (CBC)“I can only imagine what the Humboldt community is going through and remember what our community went through 10 years ago; but in times like this it feels like yesterday,” MacDonald wrote.

“To the Humboldt community, hold strong, lean on each other and the rest of this country. You will never forget but healing will start and the light of day will come up again.”

Remembering the support that came to the Bathurst high school ten years ago, MacDonald said providing support to someone else is the least the school could do.

“Please keep the Humboldt community and all their families in your thoughts and in your prayers. Remember the support that we received and send that support to them,” MacDonald wrote. 

Mothers remember

Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo both lost their 17-year-old sons Daniel and Javier in the van crash outside Bathurst in 2008. 

In a message posted on a website called Van Angels, Hains wrote she and Acevedo “know from our own personal experience that there are no words to adequately describe the emotional devastation of such a sudden and tragic loss on the lives of the families, friends and the community.”

The mothers campaigned for stricter safety rules for the passenger vans used by schools and small groups. 

Flags are at half mast at Bathurst City Hall in memory of the 15 people killed in a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. (Gail Harding/CBC)“The Humboldt Bronco hockey team bus tragedy has brought back an overwhelming flood of painful memories for me,” said Hains. “I know how you are feeling and you are not alone. There are people who love and care for you and want to help. Gather them around you for support.”

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie said the flags will fly at half mast in front of city hall in memory of those who died in the bus crash. Residents will be able to express their solidarity with the Humboldt Broncos and their families by signing a book of condolences that will be available at city hall. 

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