Humboldt (Canada) (AFP) – The coroner’s office said Monday it misidentified two of the victims of a truck-bus crash that killed 15 hockey players and others and plunged Canada into shock and grief.
Humbolt Broncos player Xavier Labelle, who was thought at a town vigil on Sunday to be among the dead, has been found to be alive, while his teammate Parker Tobin was confirmed deceased.
Both young men were 18, had similar muscular builds and along with their teammates had dyed their hair blonde for their team’s playoff run.
“We were made aware of an error that had occurred in the identification of two of the individuals,” Drew Wilby, a spokesman for the government of Saskatchewan province, told a news conference.
He gave few details about how the mistake was made and how it was uncovered, except to say that “the level of trauma,” their similar hair color, build and age were factors, and that “new information came to light last night that raised questions with health care professionals.”
“A lot of these boys looked alike,” Wilby said, adding that the families of the young men have been notified.
“I can’t imagine putting myself in those families’s shoes to first get the notice that their loved ones had been in a collision of this nature and to find out who they had thought was their loved one wasn’t actually their loved one,” he commented.
“All I can do is offer our sincerest apologies, and condolences, particularly to the Tobin family … and hope that in some small fashion they’re able to find some closure.”
Police said a collision late Friday between a transport truck and a bus carrying players, coaches and team personnel of the junior hockey team claimed 15 lives and left the other 14 people on the bus injured, some critically.
The impact of the crash at a highway intersection in northern Saskatchewan was so severe that it tore open the bus and sent the truck’s cargo of blue-wrapped bales of peat moss flying across a wide area.
The initial disbelief felt by Canadians turned slowly to sorrow and grief once the magnitude of the losses was realized and names of the victims were revealed.
Shockwaves rippled through the hockey worlds both of Canada — where the sport is considered akin to a religion — and the United States, which has 24 professional teams in the National Hockey League.