Dyed hair a factor in Humboldt bus crash victim mix-up

Government official says players all had blond dyed hair and similar builds

A spokesman for Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice says authorities mixed up the identities of one of the deceased and one of the survivors in the Humboldt Broncos crash, partly because the hockey players all had blond dyed hair and similar builds.

Drew Wilby says the coroner’s office mistook the body of 18-year-old goalie Parker Tobin for that of Xavier Labelle. Labelle is injured but alive, and Tobin is among the 15 people who died when the bus carrying the junior hockey team collided with a semi truck in northeastern Saskatchewan on Friday.

READ MORE: Justice ministry says body in Humboldt Broncos bus crash misidentified

READ MORE: Hockey sticks on porches across the country in tribute to Humboldt crash victims

Family members were told about the mix-up Sunday night and have been understanding under the circumstances, he said.

“That was a tough phone call,” Wilby said Monday in Regina.

“I don’t think enough can ever be said. All I can do is offer our sincerest apologies, our sincerest condolences and sympathies, in particular to the Tobin family on the news that they would have received yesterday.”

Wilby says dental records are the best way to identify deceased but those can take days to track down, especially given the hockey players were from all over Western Canada.

He says the coroner’s office was following a standard procedure to identify the victims but it was challenging.

“A lot of these boys looked alike,” Wilby said. “They had the blond hair that was supportive of their team for their playoff run. They’re very similar builds. They’re all very similar ages and they’re very athletic of course.”

He said the families had been involved in identifying the remains of the bus crash victims at a makeshift morgue. Wilby said he couldn’t say what condition the victims were in or what led to the discovery of the mix-up due to privacy legislation.

Wilby said officials are confident all the other victims have been properly identified.

“This is unprecedented in Saskatchewan’s history,” he said. ”Let’s all pray that something like this never happens again and we don’t need to learn these lessons for, say, the next time. Having said that, we always need to prepare for the worst and make sure that we do have the proper processes in place.”

The Humboldt Broncos were on their way to a playoff game Friday in Nipawin when the crash occurred. Fourteen people were injured in the collision.

Over the weekend, Tobin’s family had tweeted that their son was alive.

“This is one of the hardest posts I have ever had to make. Parker is stable at the moment and being airlifted to Saskatoon hospital,” Rhonda Clarke Tobin wrote.

Meanwhile, Labelle’s family had confirmed his death over the weekend, with his brother writing in an Instagram post that he was heartbroken.

News of the mistake comes a day after a solemn vigil was held at the team’s home arena, where thousands gathered to remember the deceased. A few candles still flickered Monday morning outside the Elgar Petersen Arena and a Broncos Strong sign sat on a bench near the entrance.

A ring of flowers still sat at centre ice but the seats were empty. Twenty-six pictures of the players and staff, those who died and those who survived, sat at the far end of the rink.

Nick Shumlanski, the first of the Broncos to be released from hospital, attended the vigil and sent out a statement Sunday night thanking people for their support.

“Although reality hasn’t really set in yet, it is truly devastating to have lost so many close friends, brothers and amazing coaches. Times are tough right now but the support you all have shown is so amazing,” he wrote.

He also said that he was lucky to be in the condition he was.

“The doctor told me it was truly a miracle that I was able to get up and walk away from the accident with very minor injuries and a couple of scars on my body,” he said.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fraser Health patients to see 23% more knee, hip replacement surgeries

First-available surgeon approach will reduce waitlists, B.C. health minister says

Proper engagement needed for quarry development: expert

Impact on residents, species should be communicated, evaluated

Wildlife centre operator concerned about leg-hold traps

Elizabeth Melnick of Abbotsford says contraptions are injuring innocent animals

Upper Fraser Valley RCMP members named to Alexa’s Team

Team honours officers working to keep drunk drivers off the roads, in honour of girl killed in 2008

Festival society releases full lineup for 40th Harrison Festival of the Arts

Legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and rock band Chilliwack among performers at 2018 festival

VIDEO: Harrison gets uncorked at wine festival

Locally prepared food was paired with a wide variety of wines at the Saturday fundraiser

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Protesters argue both sides of B.C.’s SOGI curriculum at teachers’ union office

The sexual orientation and gender identity program was launched as a pilot project last year

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Saskatchewan introduces law to allow control of oil, gas exports

The Prairie province has already said it is supporting Alberta in a dispute with B.C. over the Trans Mountain pipeline

Most Read