(CNN)A small town in Canada’s Saskatchewan province mourned Saturday after a bus carrying a junior hockey team collided with a tractor-trailer, leaving 15 people dead and at least 14 injured.
Members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team were headed to the town of Nipawin for a playoff game Friday night when the crash happened north of Tisdale, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
The RCMP previously reported 28 people were on the bus, with 14 injured.
Expressions of support poured in, much of it focused on a Twitter photo that showed three injured players grasping each other’s hands while lying on hospital beds.
Truck driver uninjured
Speaking at the news conference, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said the wreck occurred around 5 p.m. Friday when the tractor-trailer, traveling west on Highway 335, collided with the bus traveling north on Highway 35.
The driver, who was the lone occupant of the tractor-trailer, was not injured in the collision, Zablocki said. He was detained initially but is not currently in custody and his case is not currently being investigated as a criminal investigation.
“Our investigators will be looking at all aspects of this accident to determine what took place,” he said. “It’s too early to comment on the cause of the collision.”
Long bus rides
The tragedy was felt across Canada, where hockey is the dominant sport and making long bus rides to tournaments is a rite of passage for young players.
Cam Talbot, goalie for the Edmonton Oilers in the National Hockey League, tweeted: “After all the hours spent on a bus with the boys over the years this one really hits home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities affected by this horrible tragedy. #PrayersForHumboldt”
“I think everybody can relate to this experience,” said Muench, the mayor. “Throughout Canada we see teens going out into the Canadian winters on buses all the time.
“And it’s always a thought in parents’ and fans’ minds about what could happen, and unfortunately it has happened in Humboldt.”
Players aged 16 to 21
Town comes together
“Now I don’t know what goes on now.”
Trudeau, Trump condolences
Expressions of sympathy poured in from around the globe.
The mayor said he talked on the phone with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who passed along condolences from world leaders. Trudeau also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the victims of the crash.
“I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond,” Trudeau tweeted.
US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Just spoke to @JustinTrudeau to pay my highest respect and condolences to the families of the terrible Humboldt Team tragedy. May God be with them all!”
“We send condolence, comfort and strength to all affected by the devastating crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus,” the National Hockey League said on Twitter.
“I can’t imagine being the parent or the wife or the kids at home going through something like this,” Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said at a press conference. “It hurts.”
Looking to recover
Friday’s crash is not the first highway accident to kill hockey players in Saskatchewan.
At the news conference, Garinger noted that the loss of life will be felt across Canada — and by the players’ host families as well.
“They’re part of the families of these billets,” he said. “We try to support them the same way we try to support the other families.”
Muench said it will take a long time for Humboldt to recover.
“We’re a small town and we’re overwhelmed with the outpouring of condolences we’ve received,” he said. “We’re asking for everyone’s support and consideration in the coming days and weeks and months and years it will take us to get through this.”