The 13 survivors of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash: Where are they now?

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The 13 survivors of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash: Where are they now?

by - 9 min read

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Among the survivors of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, some have managed to heal more quickly and have returned to the world of hockey. Others may never walk again. One thing they have in common: All 13 young men have made immense efforts to get where they are today, one year after the collision on April 6, 2018.

Morgan Gobeil

The Humboldt-born defenceman was badly hurt in the crash, and was the last player to be released from hospital on March 4, 2019. Gobeil’s family said a traumatic brain injury has left him unable to speak or to walk, even after spending hours in physiotherapy.

Morgan Gobeil’s family released this photo of him on his last day in hospital. He holds a ‘Believe’ sign from the Broncos’ assistant coach that stayed at the hospital until the final injured player was released. (Saskatchewan Health Authority)

“The road is long and challenging, but we are confident Morgan’s work ethic and determination will be the cornerstone of his recovery!” his family said in a written statement last month, noting his condition has greatly improved.

During the 333 days he spent in hospital, Gobeil graduated from high school and celebrated numerous occasions, including his brother’s wedding and his 19th birthday, the family said.

Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor Derek Patter talks to former head coach Nathan Oystrick during the first day of the Humboldt Broncos training camp in August. (Kayle Neis/Canadian Press)

Derek Patter

Just over two months after suffering a subdural brain hemorrhage in the crash, and having surgery to repair a fractured shin and fibula, Edmonton-born Derek Patter posted a video on June 26, 2018, as he returned to the ice for the first time.

Patter spent the summer training and joined the team’s starting lineup in September. Returning to the Broncos has not always been easy.

“We feel constant worry about our son,” Roy and Laurel Patter told a sentencing hearing in January. “We see his struggles with such items as getting on the bus to travel to and from games. We see and feel his overwhelming frustration and sadness which in turn become overwhelming to us.”

He continues to struggle with his leg and a surgeon has recently told him he has more healing to do.

Brayden Camrud

After a severe concussion, and losing feeling in one arm and his neck, Brayden Camrud considered himself “very lucky” to be alive after the crash.

“I’d say I’m close to 100 per cent now,” he said in September. 

The Saskatoon native returned to play with the Broncos this season for his final year of junior hockey eligibility, scoring 55 regular season points and 12 more during the playoffs.

Brayden Camrud told reporters he was making a point of attending every funeral after the crash. (CBC News)

In early December, Camrud paid tribute to Patter and their missing teammates on Instagram, saying “I wish the other guys could be here every day. It’s a privilege to be at the rink every single day with my brother. Love ya Phil.”

Xavier LaBelle

The crash left the Saskatoon-born defenceman with 16 spinal fractures, a traumatic brain injury and deep facial lacerations. Xavier Labelle’s face was so badly injured the coroner misidentified him as deceased goalie Parker Tobin. After spending 62 days in hospital, LaBelle continues to undergo physiotherapy and numerous surgical interventions to repair nerve damage affecting his legs and his left shoulder.

“We went from devastating grief to absolute relief and joy that Xavier had survived this horrific, horrific tragedy,” his father, emergency room doctor Paul LaBelle, recently told Rogers Hometown Hockey.

Labelle is able to walk, but continues to require medical care. He was released from hospital two months after the crash and has no recollection of the terrible event. 

‘I think about it a lot, but there’s nothing anyone can do to change anything,’ Xavier LaBelle told Sportsnet, after he returned to his home in Saskatoon. (Submitted by Tanya LaBelle)

In September the Saskatoon Blades hired Xavier as a hockey operations assistant, and he’s also an assistant coach with the Saskatoon Contacts midget AAA team.  

“It’s different than playing hockey,” the 19-year-old said. “But coaching and being on the coaching side of things has its perks.”

Tyler Smith

After breaking his collarbone, shoulder blade, ribs and suffering a stroke in the crash, Tyler Smith was determined to rejoin the Broncos in November 2018. 

‘Physically I feel as though I’m ready,’ Smith told CBC Saskatoon on Nov. 1, 2018, as he prepared to return to hockey. ‘Mentally, that’ll come.’ (Don Somers/CBC)

Smith played 10 games before deciding to continue his recovery at home in Leduc, Alta.  

Smith now has an arm tattoo honouring his former coach Darcy Haugan, along with 16 winged angels over his heart. “I know and feel that my angels are always with me, I love you all and miss you all so much,” Smith tweeted.

Kaleb Dahlgren

An outspoken advocate for players with diabetes since his own Type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age four, Dalhgren had a lengthy recovery after the crash, in which he suffered a fractured skull, a puncture wound in his head, a brain injury and six broken vertebrae in his neck and back.

Humboldt Broncos assistant captain Kaleb Dahlgren is getting physiotherapy and working out three times a week at Zone Sports Physiotherapy in Saskatoon, the beginning of a long road to recovery. (Don Somers, CBC News)

Last summer, Dahlgren chose to follow in the footsteps of his deceased coach, Mark Cross, accepting an offer to play hockey at York University. The Strasbourg native still wears number 16, but suffers the effects of the brain injury and cannot yet play full-contact hockey. 

“When I do strap on the laces, I have something of them that I am now wearing with me, no matter what,” Dahlgren told CBC last fall. “I wanted to make the most of it. I didn’t want to sit at home and just wait.”

Bryce Fiske

The crash left defenceman Bryce Fiske’s jaw broken in four places, with fractures to his neck, skull, pelvis and left shoulder.

“Currently, Bryce is able to move freely on his own,” said a statement of facts entered at the sentencing hearing. “He has a significant amount of jaw pain and is still in treatment for his injuries. The majority of his treatment is for his jaw; he will require at least one more surgery for his jaw to be reconstructed.”

Originally from La Ronge, Sask., he moved to Toronto in June, after accepting an offer to study commerce and play hockey with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks.

Bryce Fiske spent the past season playing hockey for the Ridgebacks at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. (Ho-UOIT Athletics/Canadian Press)

“I’m excited, obviously, it’s been my goal since day one of training camp when I was 17,” Fiske said in a news release. “I’ll adjust and I’m excited and happy to be here.”

Matthieu Gomercic

Gomercic suffered a concussion, separated shoulder and numerous lacerations in the crash. He was one of the first players released from hospital, heading straight to a vigil in Humboldt for the victims.

“My son remembers moments before the accident and then remembers waking up outside the bus in the middle of this disaster,” his mother Joanne Girard-Gomercic later told a court hearing. 

“Although he was in a lot of pain, he got up and looked around to see where he was. He was convinced it was a nightmare because he could not believe that what he was seeing was real. What he saw and heard that night will affect him for the rest of his life, in ways that are hard to predict.”

Originally from Winnipeg, Gomercic received a lengthy standing ovation when he attended a Jets game two weeks after the crash. Court documents later noted Gomercic “continues to deal with emotional issues as a result of the collision on a daily basis.”

Like Fiske, Gomercic was also recruited by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks and is currently majoring in kinesiology.

Matthieu Gomercic spent his final year of university eligibility playing for the UOIT Ridgebacks. (Facebook/SJHL)

Nick Shumlanski

Shumlanski’s parents watched the Broncos’ bus pass their family farm just seconds before the crash. With a broken bone in his back and a fracture behind his ear, the forward still managed to grab a phone lying in the debris to call home.

“Both my parents and Nick were witness to sights that no person should have to see in their lifetime,” his older sister Sydney later told a judge at a sentencing hearing in Melfort, Sask.

Nick Shumlanski is comforted by a mourner during a vigil on April 8, 2018 at the Elgar Petersen Arena honouring the victims of a fatal bus crash in Humboldt, Sask. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Like several of his former teammates, the Tisdale, Sask., native has also turned to university hockey, after being recruited by the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers. After scoring his first goal with UPEI on Sept. 26, 2018, in Moncton, Shumlanski pointed his glove skyward, a tribute to his former teammates.

   

Graysen Cameron

The crash left Graysen Cameron with a fractured back, a cracked orbital bone and a concussion. Originally from Olds, Alta., Cameron returned to the world of hockey by June as an assistant coach with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.

In September, Cameron adopted a service dog to help him deal with emotional issues following the crash.

Graysen Cameron met his new service dog, Chase, for the first time in Edmonton on Friday, six months after surviving the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Peter Evans/CBC)

“If I’m going through hard times or anything like that, he’ll be right by my side,” Cameron told CBC.

Layne Matechuk

The defenceman suffered a severe brain injury and extensive skull fractures in the crash, and both his lungs collapsed. He spent a month in a coma, followed by another five months in hospital. Matechuk can now walk again, albeit with a significant limp, as he works to regain his speech.

“It is not possible at this point to determine the extent to which Layne will recover from the traumatic brain injury he suffered,” court documents noted.

Originally from Colonsay, Sask., the Matechuk family has now rented an apartment in Saskatoon to be closer to Layne’s rehabilitation facilities.

“He continues to amaze us,” Kevin Matechuk told CBC. 

After suffering a brain injury in last year’s bus crash, Humboldt Bronco Layne Matechuk got to meet his hockey idol, Penguins team captain, Sidney Crosby, in Pittsburgh in March 2019. (Submitted by Kevin Matechuk)

Ryan Straschnitzki

Paralyzed from his chest down, Ryan Straschnitzki and his family spent months living in a hotel while their home in Airdrie, Alta., is renovated to accommodate a basement apartment for their son.

Straschnitski refused to give up on the sport he loves. In August he started working out with Chris Cederstrand, the former coach of Canada’s national mens’ sledge hockey team, with his sights set on the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki during a rehab session for his paralysis. ‘He never gives up,’ says his physiotherapist Christin Krey, right. (Susan Ormiston/CBC)

Celebrating his 20th birthday this month, Straschnitzki is heading to Thailand this spring for surgery involving an implant meant to stimulate nerves, which may give him the chance to move his lower limbs again.

“Just getting some core muscles back would be awesome,” Straschnitzki told CBC. “There’s so much to work for.”

Jacob Wassermann

The goaltender emerged from the crash with a brain injury, two collapsed lungs, and a spinal cord injury that’s left him largely paralyzed from the waist down. He and Straschnitzki both received a standing ovation at the University of Denver when they played in an exhibition sledge hockey game this fall.  

Humboldt Broncos hockey player Jacob Wassermann, left, and teammate Ryan Straschnitzki compare sticks during a sled hockey scrimmage at the Edge Ice Arena in Littleton, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (Joe Mahoney/Canadian Press)

Wasserman and his family live have renovated their rural property just outside Humboldt, and modified his truck so he can drive again.

“Obviously the goal is to try and walk again, but it is way, way down the road, if at all possible,” Wassermann told the Canadian Press in November.

“I’m just doing my best.”
 

With files from Radio-Canada’s Charles Lalande

This story originally appeared on CBC

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