Grief and sadness an obstacle for many after Broncos crash

Some of the surviving players say they have developed their own support system

Kevin Matechuk of Colonsay, Sask., wasn’t prepared for the emotions that hit him when he visited the site of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

His son, Layne, who is 19 now, had been in a coma and was learning to talk and walk again due to a severe brain injury. Matechuk’s wife, Shelley, was too afraid to travel.

While in the area for his job as a manager at an agricultural company, he stopped at the site north of Tisdale, Sask., with another Broncos parent.

“The emotion, it put me down on my knees and I couldn’t even go back to work. I just had to go home to hug Layne. I had to hold him after. It was very, very emotional.”

Saturday marks the first anniversary of the April 6 crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 on the junior hockey team’s bus. The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game when the bus hit a semi-truck after its driver blew a stop sign at a rural intersection.

Dr. Kristi Wright, president of the Psychology Association of Saskatchewan, said she wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people affected by the crash — family members, friends and first responders — are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.

WATCH: Families honour those who died in Broncos bus crash

“Death in itself is an awful event,” she said in an interview. ”For people who have struggled with mental health, this can make it worse.”

Joanne Ginter, a senior psychologist with Sundancer Psychological Services in Calgary, said the anniversary is significant for people.

“It marks (that) you’ve gone through the first of everything — the first holidays, the first birthday,” she said. “It’s a time that people come together and kind of start marking off moving forward.”

The attention the crash received around the world, along with overwhelming public support, is likely to have been positive for the victims’ families, she said.

“The amount of outpouring of love that came for that whole tragedy — it’s my guess that allowed those people to heal.”

Some of the surviving players say they have developed their own support system.

“I text my buddies. We just keep in touch and we’re there for each other,” said Ryan Straschnitzki, 19, who was paralyzed from the waist down.

Straschnitzki, who is from of Airdrie, Alta., keeps himself busy with therapy and has a goal of playing in the Olympics on Canada’s sledge hockey team.

But he has his bad days too.

“It definitely comes out in times of frustration, but for the most part I like to keep it in me,” he said.

Tyler Smith of Leduc, Alta., recovered from his injuries enough to be able to return to the Broncos last fall.

After a month back on the ice, Smith decided to go home. The 20-year-old said his brief comeback was a good thing.

“I think, in the grand scheme of things, it’ll give me the closure that I need. I proved to myself I can play again.

“And then it’s just the fact I can say that I tried. And I think that’ll help me in the long run.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

COLUMN: Looking back to a time of optimism

The first lunar landing 50 years ago was a time to celebrate dreams and accomplishments

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Showers to start weekend, sun returning soon

Environment Canada forecasts rain on Saturday and the heat returning next week

UPDATE: Penticton resident’s dog found safe

Nicholas Bozak thanks the public for finding his 17 month old mastiff chow

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

RDOS contributes funds to arts centre workshop

South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society wants input into proposed facility

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Okanagan e-scooter company foils robberies

OGO Scooters staff helped return stolen property three times in 1st week of operations in Kelowna

Olympian brings women empowerment in sports to the Okanagan

Two-time medalist Natalie Spooner joined the Girls Rock the Rink event in Kelowna

Okanagan school district monitoring McCurdy supportive housing plan debate

Top priority for board of education is to maintain safety integrity of local schools

Most Read