Site of deadly Saskatchewan hockey bus crash also scene of crash that killed six


CARROT RIVER, Sask. — A remote Saskatchewan intersection where a junior hockey team bus crashed on Friday was already a scene of tragedy for a family that lost six of its members in a collision two decades ago.

Dylan Fiddler, who was just six at the time, lost his mother, aunt, uncle and three young cousins when the vehicle they were in collided with a semi on Highway 35 where it meets a secondary highway at a spot known as Armley Corner.

“It hit home maybe more than others can imagine,” Fiddler said about the crash that killed 15 people who were on the Humboldt Broncos team bus when it collided with a truck hauling peat moss.

White wooden crosses — three larger ones and three smaller ones — still stand near the southeast ditch near a copse of trees, only metres away from where the wreckage of the bus and the semi were left lying on their sides.

Fiddler and his older brother weren’t in the crash that took their mother’s life in June 1997. She and her sons had been living in Saskatoon, and she was travelling to Carrot River with family from Dawson Creek, B.C., to visit other relatives while her sons stayed home.

RCMP said at the time that the half-ton pickup the family was in ran a stop sign, into the path of the oncoming semi.

Both vehicles slammed into a ditch, where the pickup burst into flames.

The driver of the semi-trailer was not seriously injured.

After the crash, the boys moved to Carrot River, about 40 kilometres northeast of the intersection, and were raised in the community by their mother’s brother and his wife.

Fiddler, who now lives in Ontario, remembers the intersection well. As a teenager, he passed through it two or three times a week when he was equipment manager on the bus of Carrot River’s Junior B hockey team, the Tri-Town Thunder, now known as the Carrot River Outback Thunder.

“It’s sort of a meet place — ‘Hey, I can meet you at Armley Corner and we can carry on from there,'” Fiddler said, adding the corner evoked less cheery emotions for him.

“You almost want to drive with your eyes closed through that corner. It’s not a very enjoyable place to be for myself, anyway.”

Fiddler said the amount of traffic through the intersection is constant and there’s just a stop sign controlling it. He said he didn’t personally feel unsafe passing through it, partly because he was distracted by the camaraderie of being on a hockey bus.

“Even passing by that corner, you’re kind of getting in the zone. You’re laughing back and forth with your teammates,” Fiddler said.

Maybe now, after so much death on that corner, he said he thinks something will be done to improve it.

He’s heartened by the huge outpouring of grief, and help, for families affected by the recent tragedy.

“At this point, I think the families affected need everybody’s help with prayers and support, which I think they’re getting worldwide,” Fiddler said.

“I think that needs to keep on going.”

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Canadian Press