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Canada crash: Country mourns Humboldt Broncos bus dead

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Handout via Reuters

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Family members have begun confirming the death of team members and staff

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a vigil on Sunday to honour the 15 killed in a crash involving a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team.

Canada has seen an outpouring of grief following Friday’s collision.

At least nine players on the Humboldt Broncos team, aged between 16 and 21, died when their team bus collided with a semi-trailer in Saskatchewan.

Police are still trying to determine the reason for the crash. The lorry’s driver was not hurt.

Mr Trudeau’s office confirmed he would attend the small town of Humboldt’s prayer vigil, which will begin at 19:00 local time (01:00 GMT Monday).

Teams around the country paid tribute to the dead during weekend fixtures.

Many have pledged donations to support their families and the surviving players. Online fundraising pages have raised millions of dollars.

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Canadian Press/REX/Shutterstock

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Aerial photographs of the scene showed the scale of the collision with heavy damage to the coach (right)

Who are the victims?

There were 29 people on the team’s bus when the crash happened around 17:00 local time (23:00 GMT) on Friday. That number includes players, coaching staff and the driver.

Details have been slow to trickle out in the wake of the tragedy and the identities of the deceased have not yet been officially released by authorities.

Canadian public broadcaster CBC spoke to the sister of coach Darcy Haugan, who said he had been killed in the collision.

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Tributes have poured in for the 42-year-old team head coach Darcy Haugen

The family of team captain Logan Schatz, 20, have confirmed he died. He had played for the team for more than four years.

Isaac Labelle, brother of 18-year-old Xavier Labelle, posted online about his death, calling him his best friend.

“I’m going to miss you bro,” he said on Instagram. “I’ll always remember you and who you were will influence me for the rest of my life.”

The Surrey Eagles, the former team of 20-year-old Jaxon Joseph, confirmed his death in a tweet.

At least six other players, aged between 16 and 21, are believed to be among the dead, as well as an assistant coach and two people from a local radio station.

Photographs posted on social media showed several injured members of the team holding hands with each other in hospital.

Fourteen people were injured in the crash, including two critically.

One team member’s father, Tom Straschnitzki, said his son Ryan was in hospital with a serious back injury and that he could not feel his legs.

The family flew to his bedside on Saturday.

“He keeps asking about his team and coaches,” Mr Straschnitzki told the BBC from his home in Airdrie, Alberta. “I say: ‘I don’t know son’.”

What is known about the crash?

The lorry and bus collided on Highway 35, north of Tisdale. The team had been heading to the town of Nipawin for a play-off game.

Aerial photographs of the crash site show it happened close to a junction between two roads.

The lorry driver was not injured and has been allowed to go free while authorities investigate, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

Myles Shumlanski, father of one of the Broncos players, described the crash scene as a “disaster” to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix paper. “We had a crane lifting the bus,” he said.

A community devastated

Rob Muench, the mayor of Humboldt, said it would take years for the community to come to grips with the tragedy.

“Throughout Canada we see teams going out into the Canadian winters on buses all the time and it’s always a thought in parents’ and fans’ minds about what could happen,” he said.

“There is no playbook on what to do in cases like this.”

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Humboldt’s mayor wore the team’s jersey in solidarity on Saturday evening

Nipawin Apostolic Church lead pastor Jordan Gadsby told the BBC he had opened his church to families shortly after learning of the crash.

“The worst part of the night was sitting with and watching parents cry as they waited to find out if their son was alive or not,” he said.

Who has paid tribute?

News of the crash has shocked Canada, where ice hockey is a national sport and loved by many.

Users on social media expressed solidarity using the hashtags #prayersforhumboldt and #humboldtstrong.

Mr Trudeau said the entire country was “in shock and mourning” along with Humboldt, which has a population of only 6,000.

“Our national hockey family is a close one, with roots in almost every town – small and big – across Canada,” he added.

He has received condolence calls from other world leaders, including US President Donald Trump.

Humboldt Broncos President Kevin Garinger said the club were “heartbroken and completely devastated” by the tragedy.

The young athletes who play in the competitions like the Saskatchewan league often go on to play for colleges, major junior teams or the National Hockey League.

Canada has experienced similar tragedies before.

In 1986 a bus carrying the Swift Current Broncos junior hockey team hit a patch of black ice on a Saskatchewan stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway, killing four players.

Since 1987, Western Hockey League team uniforms have been adorned with a clover patch in remembrance of the young men killed that day.

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Getty Images

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National Hockey League players paid tribute before matches – wearing ‘Broncos’ on their backs

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