Canadian bus crash mourners reeling as dead player misidentified

Mourners experienced a fresh wave of anguish after one of the dead Humboldt Broncos players was mixed up with a survivor of the crash that killed 15.
by Associated Press /  / Updated 
Image: A woman pays her respects at a makeshift memorial at the intersection of the fatal bus crash near Tisdale
A woman pays her respects Monday at a makeshift memorial at the site of the fatal bus crash that killed 15 players and staffers from the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team near Tisdale, Saskatchewan.Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press, via AP

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HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan — Families and friends already stunned by the deaths of 15 players and team personnel for Humboldt’s youth hockey club got a new shock Monday when authorities announced that one of the dead had been misidentified.

The Ministry of Justice for Saskatchewan Province said the mistake occurred partly because all the Broncos players had dyed their hair blond for the team’s appearance in the playoffs and because all the young men had similar builds.

The ministry said the body of Parker Tobin had been mistakenly identified as that of Xavier Labelle. It said Labelle was actually one of the 14 injured when the team bus was hit by a semitrailer truck Friday night.

Drew Wilby, spokesman for the ministry, and the Office of the Chief Coroner apologized.

“To find who they had thought was their loved one wasn’t their loved one I can’t even fathom,” Wilby said. “I don’t know enough could ever be said. All I could do is offer our sincerest apologies.”

He said families had been involved in identifying the remains of the crash victims at a makeshift morgue and the error wasn’t discovered until Sunday night.

“The new information came to light last night that raised questions with the health care professionals. In turn they were able to identify Xavier Labelle as Xavier Labelle, who of course we had previously said was Parker Tobin,” Wilby said. “A lot of these boys looked alike.”

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, Xavier Labelle’s family had confirmed his death, with his brother Isaac writing in an Instagram post that he was heartbroken.

Image: Head coach Darcy Haugan talks to the 2017-2018 Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team on the bench during a game in this undated handout photo.
Head coach Darcy Haugan talks to the Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team on the bench in a game during the 2017-18 season.Amanda Brochu / Reuters

Matthew Labelle, a second cousin of Xavier, said that “it’s obviously been quite the roller coaster for our family.”

Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench called it “an unfortunate mistake.”

Broncos club president Kevin Garinger said he was contacted by police early Monday about it and said the error makes a difficult situation more challenging.

“At this point, I just want to reach out and support the families,” Garinger said. “It’s not about understanding anything.”

Among the dead were Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said 12 of the survivors were still in the hospital, with four in critical condition. Four others were in serious condition and four patients were stable.

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