Humboldt tragedy brings back bad memories for junior hockey coach

Chilliwack Chiefs bench boss Jason Tatarnic was involved in a bus accident with Woodstock in 2007.

There is a little voice in the back of Jason Tatarnic’s head that yells at him every time he gets on a bus, reminding him about the time he almost lost his life on a junior A hockey road-trip.

It’s a voice that’s gotten a lot louder this week, in the wake of a horrible bus accident in Saskatchewan that claimed the lives of 16 people connected with the Humboldt Broncos.

Tatarnic has watched the news coverage and seen the photos, and heard from members of the Woodstock Slammers who were on a bus with him in 2007, a bus that flipped in the snow on the way to a game in Prince Edward Island.

“It was a neutral-site game and it was windy with whiteout conditions,” Tatarnic recalled. “Our tire went off the road, kind of got caught and away we went.

“We were fortunate there was a lot of fresh snow on the ground, so when the bus flipped we weren’t getting dragged over hard ground. The windows popped open and we got a ton of snow in the bus, but it was soft snow and we didn’t get any injuries that way. And we slid perfectly through two concrete barriers. What are the odds of a bus sliding perfectly between two concrete barriers?”

According to a news report from that day, 22 players, five team officials and the driver were on the bus when it flipped near Days Corner, PEI.

“When I looked to the back of the bus when we came to a stop, I wasn’t expecting to see… a good sight,” Tatarnic admitted. “But things worked out.”

The report mentions Tatarnic sustaining minor cuts. Assistant coach Bob Vail had to be freed from the bus by the Jaws of Life and airlifted to hospital in critical condition. But he eventually pulled through, leaving the Tatarnic to consider the what ifs of life.

What if the bus hit one of those concrete barriers flush. What if Woodstock’s opponent that night hadn’t been following just a few minutes behind, arriving on the scene quickly to aid the Slammers and summon help.

What if, what if, what if.

“Players love to play and coaches love to coach and travel is part of being in junior hockey,” Tatarnic said. “It took a while, but the first time I had to jump back on the bus in Woodstock, it was nerve-wracking. It wasn’t easy, but we got over it. It’s not even close to what happened in Humboldt in terms of the outcome, but it’s always in the back of your mind. Even to this day, I have thoughts whenever I jump on a bus.

“It was tough for me to get back on the bus and tough for my players, and I’ve had some of them reach out to me this week expressing how lucky we were.”

Tatarnic hopes some good can come out of a very bad situation, starting with the design of the buses that ferry hockey teams from place to place.

“Maybe one thing is how they’re built, and why do we need all those windows and why can’t air bags can’t be part of a bus?” he said. “What’s the reason for seat-belts not being on coaches? Why can’t we make buses safer? Maybe that could have saved one or two live in Humboldt, and maybe it’s time we started asking those questions.”

Honestly, it’s a wonder these accidents don’t happen more often. Not to the degree of the Humboldt crash, but given the miles hockey teams cover every year in inclement weather as they criss-cross the provinces, the risk is constant.

Tatarnic’s Chilliwack Chiefs make winter road trips to Prince George, Vernon, Penticton, Salmon Arm, West Kelowna, Wenatchee, Trail, Merritt and the Coquihalla Highway is so bad its the subject of a TV show called Highway Thru Hell.

“Our accident changed how we traveled in Woodstock, where we didn’t hesitate to cancel games because of weather,” Tatarnic said. “I look at the travel schedule we have now, and I’d like to see changes. I know you can’t accommodate everything, but we have teams going to the Interior and I think those games should be played as early in the season as possible to avoid the winter months.

“It’s hard to see how anything good can come of this, but maybe there are things we should be looking at.”

Just Posted

BC Housing will hold second info session about Quality Inn

No firm date set but need to house Langley’s homeless grows, says BC Housing

House fire in Aldergrove

Flames shooting out what appears to be the chimney

Langleys seventh ‘rattiest’ municipality in B.C.

There are a number of ways to reduce risk of infestation says rodent removal expert

Judgment levied in Langley mushroom skimming

A court has fined a man who made off with thousands worth of mushrooms

SLIDESHOW: Kodiaks ground Lightning

Photos from Credo Christian’s 1-0 victory over Langley Christian in senior girls soccer

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

Britain gives long-lost Franklin expedition ships to Canada, Inuit

Deeds to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror signed over to Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in

Three days after rampage, people still gathering at memorial to lay flowers and honour victims

Liberals urged to tax e-commerce services like Netflix

Trudeau has been adamant that his government wouldn’t increase taxes on online subscriptions

Why some B.C. daycares didn’t opt in to subsidy program

Deadline passes for program aimed at laying foundation for universal child care

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

B.C. skydiver lands safely after cutting away main chute

Greater Victoria emergency services called after witnesses saw spiralling chute

Most Read