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

Selkirk College students protest proposed tuition increases

Sudents’ union says this year’s 2 per cent increase puts education out of reach for some

Castlegar business owners report highest optimism in 3 years

Two-thirds of survey participants report business security or growth

Former ski champ and MLA’s son hope to open Castlegar cannabis store next month

Felix Belczyk and Ben Conroy are in the approval process for local Spiritleaf outlet

Born 1 pound, 11 ounces, Winlaw premature baby comes home

Indra Greaves was born at the Nelson hospital after just 24 weeks of gestation

Rebels beef up blueline as trade deadline closes

Tyson Soobotin, 18, was playing for the Nelson Leafs, and Elijah Havers, 17, joins the team from the Coyotes in Osooyoos

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

New military armoury opens in Cranbrook

Military presence in the Key City a part of the 44th Engineer Squadron

Most Read