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It was two years ago today that 16 people died and 13 were injured in the Saskatchewan Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus crash on April 6, 2018. The bus crashed after it was hit by a passing transport truck the sped through a stop sign.
A quiet ceremony will be held for the still-mourning families as the COVID-19 crisis prevents any public gatherings. The victim's families had hoped to attend a small ceremony in Humboldt on Monday while others planned to visit the site of the crash, however they will have to mourn at home this year, according to CTV News.
"It's going to be a lonely day," said Toby Boulet of Lethbridge, Alberta. Toby is the father of Logan, one of the boys who died in the crash. "Not as many hugs. We can't get together as a family." Boulet said the memories from that day two years ago, still churn in his mind.
Another father, Scott Thomas, said he's only beginning to accept the fact that his son, Evan, is gone. Thomas has said that in many ways, things have only gotten worse. "It's just a huge hole. We're just staring into the abyss still every day," he said. "It's the first thing I think of when I get up and the last thing I think of when I go to bed."
For those who did survive the crash, many struggles continue for them and their families. Layne Matchuk suffered a brain injury from the crash and has had a slow recovery since awaking from his coma. His father, Kevin Matechuk said he was supposed to start a new physiotherapy treatment in Regina but he can't do so now because of the pandemic.
Prior to sustaining the brain injury Kevin was a very upbeat kid according to his father, but now he has trouble moving his right side and has lost interest in hockey. "His skating improved a little bit, but he drags his right side," he said. "He's starting to realize that it's not going to be like it used to be."
The Matechuk family has visited the site of the crash site several times before and intended visit is again on the anniversary, before these plans were halted by pandemic containment measures.
Only one boy, Nick Shumlanski, managed to walk away from the crash with minor injuries. His father Myles said the family sees the site of the crash every day as it's just only down the road from the Shumlanski's home.
Nick had been attending the University of Prince Edward Island, where he had continued to play hockey, thought he has since quit and returned home.
"He couldn't handle it no more," said Shumlanski. "He said he didn't have enough support there and needed to be closer to his family. He just couldn't do the grind anymore."
Another player on that bus, Ryan Straschnitzki, was paralyzed from the chest down. Straschnitzki still has hopes to play for the national sledge hockey team however his mental health is a concern for his mother, Michelle Straschnitzki. "I'm still at the same place that I was two years ago," said Michelle. "I'm still bitterly angry. I just firmly believe it should never have happened and I hope to God it never happens again."
The family hasn't visited the site of the crash according to his father, Tom, and won't until his son is ready. They will stay home on Monday's anniversary, he said but they will all be together.
The Straschnitzki family will turn on green lights outside their home in memory of those who died and leave them on through Tuesday for Green Shirt Day. Green Shirt Day is in honour of Logan Boulet and aims to promote organ donation. Boulet had signed up to be an organ donor shortly before the crash.
Within two months of his death over 150,000 people registered to become organ donors accord to Canadian Blood Services, spurring the movement to be called the Logan Boulet Effect.
This year, Logan's father Tony Boulet said that Green Shirt Day has been moved entirely online for the pandemic. "We'll get people to take pictures of themselves wearing their green shirts," he said.
People will post photos and videos on social media to show their support, writing #greenshirtday or #LoganBouletEffect. An online anniversary memorial will also be held on Monday.
Humboldt city mayor, Rob Muench, had hoped to publicly display some of the thousands of gifts the town has received, however they have since been restricted to do so in light of current measures.
"Even (with) the situation that's taking place in the world right now," Muench said, "it's important that we do not let this fall through the cracks."
Humboldt church bells will ring out at 4:50 p.m., the approximate time the crash occurred, followed by a moment of silence.