By Eric Andrews & Braden Ochs | Echo
On April 6, 2018, a coach bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team collided with a trailer truck in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, killing 16 on the bus and injuring 13.
The Broncos, a team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, were en route to a playoff game at the time of the collision. Ten Broncos players perished in the crash, as well as the team's head coach, assistant coach, athletic therapist, statistician, radio broadcaster and bus driver.
Initially, it was believed Xavier Labelle, a defenseman on the team, had passed away. However, two days later on April 8, authorities realized it was Parker Tobin, one of the Broncos' goaltenders, who had passed away, contrary to the coroner's original report.
The Humboldt accident and the misidentification of two of the team's players closely resembles Taylor's van accident on April 26, 2006, which claimed the lives of five members of Taylor's community. The deceased included students Laurel Erb, Brad Larson, Betsy Smith and Laura Van Ryn and Creative Dining Services staff member Monica Felver.
At the time of the accident, it was believed Van Ryn had survived and Whitney Cerak ('09, now Wheeler) had passed away. However, on May 31, after five weeks of rehab, doctors asked Van Ryn to write her name. She wrote the name "Whitney." Only then did the reality set in that it was Cerak and not Van Ryn.
Jim Garringer, director of media relations, recalled the van accident and the mistaken identity that took place.
"We didn't know what in the world to say, and I didn't even know what to feel," Garringer said.
The Van Ryns and Ceraks experienced an immense amount of support throughout the aftermath of the accident.
Don Van Ryn, Laura's father, remembered how family members, friends and strangers alike all rallied around the Van Ryn family, doing whatever they could in order to support the family. Gift cards for gas and restaurants, stacks of pizzas and even ice cream from a German creamery in Cincinnati were gifted to the Van Ryns in the wake of the tragedy while spending time in the hospital.
Don noted these gifts were given purely out of love, which served as a huge source of encouragement for the family.
While offering words of encouragement in situations like this is often difficult, Don shared a truth he believes is enough to get anyone through a tragic accident.
"Hold on to your faith and understand that the Lord has a reason for something like this and He's going to work through it, and it's just going to take time to see that," Don said.
Colleen Cerak, Whitney's mother, noted the amazing amount of support she and her family received from the Taylor community and their church family in Gaylord, Michigan.
Colleen recalled a particularly powerful and encouraging experience for her and her family in the days following the accident.
"Whitney had just received a Bible at her high school graduation," Colleen said. "She was a freshman (at Taylor when the accident happened, so) it was a pretty new Bible to her. I remember the first morning that we came home after we found out that she was gone, Carly (Whitney's sister) got her Bible and we started looking through it, and the verses Whitney had underlined during that year were verses that just popped off the page to us. It was like God was speaking out loud to us, and they were so beautiful."
Colleen also noted how impactful the testimony of the Broncos' head coach, Darcy Haugan, has been. Haugan was a devout Christian who loved the game of hockey, desiring to give back to the game in whatever way possible. Haugan volunteered with Hockey Ministries International, a Christian hockey camp for youth hockey players.
While the tragedies of the accidents have forever changed the lives of those affected, the support given to the Van Ryns and Ceraks provided a Godly sense of encouragement and hope. The Van Ryns and Ceraks hope those affected by the Humboldt accident will find comfort and peace in God moving forward.
"We simply just have to trust the sovereignty and love of God and believe that He loves us, He loves the people involved in this sad, awful event and in some way, shape or form, He will work good in our lives," Garringer said. "We have certainly seen that in the case of the Ceraks and the Van Ryns."