Permanent Memorial Planned for Site of 2018 Humboldt Broncos Tragedy

Permanent Memorial Planned for Site of 2018 Humboldt Broncos Tragedy
People pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near Tisdale, Sask., for the Humboldt Broncos hockey players on April, 9, 2018. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)
Doug Lett

There’s been a big step toward construction of a permanent memorial for the 2018 Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the site where the deadly bus crash happened near Tisdale, Saskatchewan, on April 6, 2018.

The Humboldt Broncos Memorial Committee presented a draft concept plan on April 4 for a memorial at the intersection of highways 35 and 335.
The site, located approximately 170 kilometres northeast of Humboldt, has been decorated with crosses and other items of remembrance since the tragedy. The memorial will make it a permanent spot of remembrance to honour the 16 lives lost and all the others whose lives were impacted.

For the memorial committee, it’s a significant move.

“I’m thrilled that we can get shovels in the ground soon and create something that will be meaningful not only for the families, but also the public,” said Carol Brons in an April 4 news release. She’s the mother of Dayna Brons, athletic therapist for the Broncos, who succumbed to her injuries after the crash.

“We have successfully reached this stage following many hurdles that seemed impossible to conquer,” she added. “Power lines needed to be relocated, deciding where to construct a new access road, and ensuring driver sight lines at the corner weren’t obstructed are just a few of the obstacles.”

Draft concept plan for a permanent memorial at the site of the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan. (Courtesy City of Humboldt).
Draft concept plan for a permanent memorial at the site of the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan. (Courtesy City of Humboldt).

‘Paying a Proper Tribute’

For the community, it feels good to see progress.

“It’s nice to see that it’s finally getting closer to fruition and paying a proper tribute to those who suffered as a result of the tragedy,” Humboldt Mayor Michael Behiel told The Epoch Times.

“I’m happy to see that we’re finally able to see some progress going forward. It’s been a long, arduous process.”

On that tragic day six years ago, a semi truck driven by Jaskirat Singh Sidhu barrelled through a stop sign at the highway intersection and into the path of the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos to a playoff game.

Sixteen people died as a result of the crash and another 13 were injured. The tragedy shook millions across the country and around the world. Tributes and donations poured in for weeks.

A concept plan for the memorial shows a pond, a parking lot, and a spot for a permanent memorial.

Phase one, which the committee hopes will get going within a month or so, is mostly site preparation, which will involve earth-moving and the creation of pathways and a sitting area.

Phase two will be the permanent memorial, and the committee hopes to release more information about that before the end of the year.

The second phase “will be a memorial monument in honor of the 16 who lost their lives and the 13 whose lives were changed forever,” the news release says.

Building New Lives

Those injured have been building new lives for themselves, and in many ways continue to inspire others.
Ryan Straschnitzki, whose legs were paralyzed, has gotten involved in para-ice hockey as well as wheelchair basketball. He started the Straz Strong Foundation, an organization that helps those facing rehabilitation.
In March, former Broncos teammate Jacob Wassermann, also partially paralyzed, captured a silver medal in rowing at a qualifying event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the process, he clinched a country quota spot for Canada in the PR1 men’s single event at the 2024 Paralympic Games. This means he could end up competing in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris later this summer.
Others have left a different legacy, such as Green Shirt Day. Inspired by the “Logan Boulet Effect,” it’s a day to raise awareness about organ donations. Logan Boulet succumbed to his injuries the day after the crash, and because he had registered as an organ donor, his organs were donated and helped save six lives.
The Adam Herold Legacy Foundation, named after Adam Herold, provides training camps to help young hockey players develop their skills and leadership potential.

‘We’re Never Forgetting’

The committee has been working with a variety of provincial agencies, such as the Ministry of Highways, SaskPower, and CN Rail, to ensure the memorial’s design is respectful and meaningful while meeting safety requirements.

“The Committee is anxious to get moving forward with Phase I,” said Kurt Leicht, father of Jacob Leicht, who lost his life in the tragedy.

“We would like to get started within the next month or so and we invite individuals and companies interested in contributing to this phase either through financial contribution or services to assist with the earth-moving, concrete and paving work to contact us,” he said in the release.

While there are Humboldt city council representatives on the committee, Mayor Behiel said they are just there to help with whatever the committee needs. Those on the committee include Carol Brons, Kurt Leicht, Ed Tobin, and Bernie Boulet.

The anniversary of the tragedy, April 6, just passed, and Mr. Behiel said every year the community of just over 6,000 pays tribute.

“We consider it more of a time for a bit of reflection and moving forward. We will always continue to ring the bells over at the church at the time of the accident [around 4:50 p.m.],” he said.

“We open the arena up with a video display. There’s an online tribute that’s done every year for them to review. And we just want to ensure that, although we’re moving forward, it’s recognized that we’re never forgetting what happened.”

Doug Lett is a former news manager with both Global News and CTV, and has held a variety of other positions in the news industry.
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