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

Woman steals truck from Ponoka gas station while being fueled

Ponoka RCMP pursued and located the woman in a tree after several other incidents

WATCH: Rikubetsu students immerse in culture of Lacombe

Student delegation experiences four days of Alberta

City of Lacombe passes smoking bylaw in advance of cannabis legalization

Recreational cannabis to be consumed only on private property

Council votes to invest $750,000 in Lacombe Market Square

‘Big Canadian retail store’ coming to Lacombe within four years

Thurber Raiders snatch season opener from the Lacombe Rams

Red Deer game saw 44-8 win for the Raiders

WATCH: AHS breaks ground on new Lacombe Community Health Centre

17,000 sq. ft. facility will bring existing Lacombe AHS services together

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Ottawa working to iron out kinks in public alert system

The alerts are being credit with saving lives during last week’s tornadoes

Assault charge withdrawn vs. ex-Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna

Former Toronto player agrees to peace bond

UPDATED: Bill Cosby gets 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault

Judge also declared the disgraced comedian a ‘sexually violent predator’

U.S. worker charged after video shows him spitting on customer’s pizza

Jaylon Kerley of Detroit is charged with a felony count of food law violations

Robbery report at outlet mall turns out to be fake: police

Leduc RCMP respond to weapons complaint at premium outlet collection mall

Canada aiming for the moon, and beyond, with new space technology efforts

With an eye on future lunar exploration, Canada’s space agency is calling on companies to present their ideas for everything from moon-rover power systems to innovative mineral prospecting techniques.

New Brunswick Premier meets with lieutenant-governor as Tories, Liberals vie for power

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said the only other leader he had spoken with since results came in was Green Leader David Coon.

Most Read