Humboldt Broncos survivor Nick Shumlanski describes crash, aftermath
Nick Shumlanski had just spotted his home out the window as the bus carrying him and his Humboldt Broncos teammates headed north on Saskatchewan’s Highway 35 for a playoff hockey game.
“All of a sudden we just slammed on the brakes and that's pretty much the last thing I remember is just seeing a couple of guys stand up to see what was going on,” the 20-year-old forward told CTV News on Monday. “And then I'm not sure what happened after that.”
What happened during the late afternoon of April 6 has shaken Canada to its core: 15 dead and 14 injured when a tractor-trailer collided with the junior hockey team’s bus. Nick, who was initially knocked unconscious in the collision, was one of the only people to walk away from the horrific accident.
“Somebody woke me up, I think,” Nick said, struggling to recall the crash. “And then I just managed to grab a phone from somebody, just called home to let them know that (they) needed to get there as soon as possible.’”
His parents, Myles and Vivian Shumlanski, live less than half a kilometre from the rural crash site. Within minutes, the two were the first to arrive at the nightmarish scene.
“It was chaos,” Myles recalled. “You almost had to be there to see it to understand it, and there's no way to describe it -- and I'd rather not describe it.”
Surrounded by twisted metal and broken bodies, the couple quickly got to work aiding victims as they awaited more help.
“In a way, I wish we weren’t there,” Myles added. “It’s tough. These are your kids. These are your boys… brothers. You don’t break down, but you break down so much after because you know these families and it could easily have been our family.”
Myles said he also saw the truck driver at the scene.
“When I looked in the window, a gentleman waved and said he was okay,” he said. “I just walked away… You just got to control your emotions at that time because when you see your boy covered with blood, you see some his best buddies, some of the guys he’s played hockey five, six, seven, eight years ago... They did not deserve this.”
All of the injured were eventually transferred to hospitals in Saskatoon, more than 200 kilometres away. There, Nick and two of his injured teammates were pictured clutching hands.
Nick was released early Saturday with an injured shoulder and a chipped vertebra. Only one other player has been released since while four remain in critical condition.
“To come out of that the way I did, (the doctor) said I was one of the luckiest clients, or something like that, he's ever seen,” Nick said. “I’m feeling pretty blessed, pretty fortunate.”
Nick was one of two members of the Broncos to attend a vigil Sunday night on home ice in Humboldt. Thousands of family members, friends, fans and dignitaries were there to grieve together and show their support. As hard it was to be there, their presence, Nick said, meant a great deal to him.
“I don't think anybody is ever going to move on from this,” he said. “But the support helps -- it gives you strength.”
Nick wants to play hockey again, but for now, just needs time and space to process this horrible tragedy.
“We’ll just take it day by day for now,” he said. “I’m not too worried about the future right now.”
With a report from CTV Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme and files from The Canadian Press
Derek Grayson and Nick bonding and healing in hospital pic.twitter.com/DzesIoT27B— R J patter (@rjpatter) April 7, 2018