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

Nursing graduates coming to work at Comox Valley, Campbell River hospitals

Twenty-two casual and temporary nurses will be hired

Saratoga Speedway celebrates its 50th opening night of racing May 5

In 1968 the central Vancouver Island communities and business came together to… Continue reading

Cumberland May Day Bean Dinner planned

Labour Minister Harry Bains as guest speaker at annual event

Draft plan for Union Bay coal hills remediation to be submitted this spring

West Fraser Mills is paying for the installation of an engineered membrane

Crowdfunding page created for family of Comox Valley man killed in Peru

A GoFundMe page has been created for the family of Sebastian Woodroffe,… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

Charges follow collisions between pickup and police vehicles in Nanaimo

Majore Jackson, 32, and Andrew John Bellwood, 47, from Nanaimo, face numerous charges

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

B.C. skydiver lands safely after cutting away main chute

Greater Victoria emergency services called after witnesses saw spiralling chute

Elderly man who went missing from a BC Ferry still hasn’t been found

Delta Police investigation has deemed incident non-suspicious in nature

78 Mexican farmworkers displaced after fire tears through building on B.C. farm

Flames broke out Thursday morning in building that housed up to 80 workers at Abbotsford farm

Cartoonist captures public mood following Toronto, Humboldt tragedies

Cartoonist said he was trying to find a bit of positivity with an image that has garnered attention

Most Read