B.C. survivor of Swift Current Broncos 1986 crash reflects on Humboldt tragedy

Peter Soberlak and other former Swift Current Broncos teammates headed to Saskatchewan

  • Apr. 7, 2018 3:00 p.m.

––Kamloops This Week

Peter Soberlak didn’t want to believe it.

He received a text message on Friday night telling him about the bus crash in Saskatchewan that killed 14 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior A hockey team of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

The tragedy is a horrible echo of what Soberlak went through with his Swift Current Broncos teammates in 1986, when Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff were killed after the Western Hockey League team’s bus hit a patch of black ice and careened off the highway.

Soberlak is now athletic performance advisor at Thompson Rivers University. He also has a master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology.

When KTW contacted Soberlak, he was in the middle of arranging flights to meet up with former Swift Current Broncos’ teammates Sheldon Kennedy and Bob Wilkie, both of whom are co-survivors of the 1986 crash. The three plan on visiting and offering their support to the Humboldt survivors.

RCMP say 29 people were on the bus when it was T-boned by a semi-truck as the team made its way to Nipawin, where a playoff game was scheduled. Humboldt is a town of 6,000 about 100 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

Confirmed fatalities so far include the team’s captain, Logan Schatz, and the team’s coach, Darcy Haugan. Other names have yet to be confirmed.

“Waking up this morning, the only way to describe it would just be heartbroken,” Soberlak said. “Just utterly heartbroken and devastated for the families and the survivors and the first responders and the billets and the friends.”

Soberlak said he has been thinking about parents and families sitting by the phone, wondering if their loved one survived.

“Initially, that was just the most devastating thing for me, having been through that,” he said. “I can’t imagine anything more heartbreaking and heart-wrenching.”

Support for the team’s families has been pouring in. A GoFundMe fundraiser page brought in more than $1 million in just 16 hours, with the money to be dispersed to families of victims and survivors.

READ MORE: Donations reach $1M for families after Humboldt Broncos bus crash

READ MORE: Former BCHL player one of 14 killed in bus crash

“It just shows the love and support out there from everyone,” Soberlak said.

Soberlak will be offering his own support, together with Kennedy and Wilkie, when they travel to Saskatchewan this weekend. He said the three asked themselves what they could do and, while they still don’t have concrete plans, they know that first, they have to be there.

“We can get out there and show our support. I don’t know what that support will look like yet, but it’s something we didn’t hesitate about,” he said.

Soberlak said survivors of the crash will need all the support they can get, noting that recovery will be a long process. He added much has changed since 1986.

“What I do know now, compared to when we went through something like this, is that now there are more supports in place. There’s more awareness of the impact, psychologically, and the impact of trauma, both acute and long-term,” he said.

“There’s going to be a great deal of pain. You never get over something like this, but there are supports and there are mechanisms and outlets for people to get help and feel supported and feel loved and do what they can to deal with this.”

Soberlak said right now, the accident is difficult to fathom and comprehend. He said while it’s not fair, nor just, it happened — and survivors and their family and friends must pick up the pieces and move on.

“This is a sad day. I know it touches everybody’s hearts,” he said. “So many people have a connection. It’s so much more than hockey — it’s not about hockey. It’s about family. It’s about those things that we can sometimes take for granted.

“I’ve never hugged my kids harder than I did this morning.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Revelstoke roads and weather

Special public avalanche warning

‘The whole city has changed:’ Okanagan woman in New Zealand reacts to mosque attacks

An expatriate and Muslim students at UBC Okanagan deeply affected by white supremacist shooting

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Warm, sunny days continue

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring — and it finally feels like it across the Okanagan

Revelstoke City Council to look at updating Development Cost Charge Bylaw

City staff have been asked to present a plan on how to proceed

Temperatures on the rise for the Okanagan Valley

Okanagan-Shuswap weekday weather update

Central Okanagan on flood watch as snow melts

With higher temperatures, the regional district is warning property owners to be prepared

Trudeau condemns hateful, ‘toxic segments’ of society after New Zealand shooting

Prime Minister expressed sorrow at the many attacks in recent years

‘It’s never a singular cause,’ too soon for Central Okanagan beekeepers to determine success of hives

With a cold snap this February, one Central Okanagan beekeeper says his hives are OK so far

Air Canada grounds its Boeing Max 8s until at least July 1 to provide certainty

Airlines around the world have been working to redeploy their fleets since their Max 8s were grounded last week

Okanagan kittens that were nearly crushed are almost ready for adoption

Two feral kittens are recovery following complicated eye surgery

Budget to tout Liberal economic record, provide distraction from SNC furor

This is the Liberal government’s fourth and final budget before the election

Horvat scores 16 seconds into OT as Canucks beat Blackhawks 3-2

Pettersson sets rookie scoring record for Vancouver

Vancouver Island overdue for the big one, can also expect mega-thrust tsunami

The last big earthquake was 70 years ago in Courtenay

Most Read