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'A grieving province' mourns after 14 killed in Canadian junior hockey team bus crash

At least 14 people are dead after a crash between a tractor-trailer and a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey league team, a tragedy that struck at the heart of a tightknit city in rural Saskatchewan and immediately echoed through the hockey world.

The deadly crash occurred around 5 p.m. Friday on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan, about 150 miles northeast of Saskatoon, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The bus was carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey league team, on their way to the town of Nipawin for a playoff game.

"While en route to Nipawin, the Broncos bus was involved in a terrible accident which has resulted in multiple fatalities and serious injuries," the team confirmed Friday.

Among those killed were the team's head coach and captain, according to the Canadian Press. The Washington Post could not immediately independently confirm the deaths Saturday.

Broncos president Kevin Garinger described it as "one of the hardest days of my life" as he rushed to Nipawin Friday along with relatives of the teammates.

"Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss," Garinger said statement.

On Saturday, police confirmed there were 29 people on the Humboldt Broncos team bus, including the driver, at the time of the crash. Fifteen of those people were injured, three of them critically, police said. (Police had earlier said there were 28 on the bus and 14 injured.)

Police did not release names of the deceased or injured, nor did they say how many were players or coaches. Police also did not release the condition of the tractor-trailer driver.

The Broncos roster lists 24 players ranging in age from 16 to 21 years old, as well as three coaches. The junior league team is based in Humboldt, a small city about 120 miles south of Nipawin with a population of nearly 6,000 people.

As word spread of the accident Friday night, dozens of Humboldt residents gathered at the Broncos' home ice rink to wait for news and take solace in the community, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported.

Images from the arena showed adults and children clustered around tables, among tissue boxes and disposable cups. Some appeared dazed, some with eyes red from crying.

"There's people, just sitting in the stands, stunned. They didn't know what to do," Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench told the newspaper. "It's a tragedy not only for Humboldt, but for hockey all over [Canada]. A number of the players were from communities in surrounding provinces and across the country. It is a very, very hard thing to take."

Michelle Straschnitzki told The Associated Press her 18-year-old son Ryan was among the Broncos players taken to a hospital in Saskatoon.

"We talked to him, but he said he couldn't feel his lower extremities so I don't know what's going on," Straschnitzki told the AP. "I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates, and I am losing my mind."

Several professional hockey teams and Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also offered condolences, as did President Donald Trump.

The Broncos had been scheduled to play against the Nipawin Hawks in the semifinals of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs. The Hawks announced Friday night that the game had been canceled.

A GoFundMe account set up to help Broncos families with expenses raised more than $850,000 in less than a day.

On Friday night, more than a hundred people packed the Apostolic Church in Nipawin - including family members of Broncos players who had been on the bus - awaiting word from the accident, the Globe and Mail reported.

"Lots of them are waiting for information," pastor Jordan Gadsby told the newspaper. "Some of the families have gotten information and have gone to be with their kids. Some of them are waiting to hear if their kids are alive."

Nipawin Hawks president Darren Opp told local reporters that members of his team were also standing by waiting to help, and that he had received at least 50 phone calls offering the same.

"There's uncles and moms and dads waiting to hear whether their sons and nephews are OK," he said. "It's terrible. It's absolutely terrible."

Author information: Amy B Wang is a general assignment reporter covering national and breaking news for The Washington Post.