SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — One family’s hope was extinguished and another’s was renewed on Monday, after Saskatchewan’s coroner’s office acknowledged that it had mixed up the identities of a survivor and a victim of a violent bus crash that has shaken this province and all of Canada.
The collision between a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team and a tractor-trailer truck loaded with packaged peat moss killed 15 members of the team and its staff, and injured 14 others.
Early Monday morning the Office of the Chief Coroner for Saskatchewan said in a statement that it had incorrectly declared Xavier Labelle, an 18-year-old defenseman, as dead. He is in a hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. No information about his medical condition has been made public.
The coroner said Parker Tobin, the team’s goalie, had not survived.
“All I can say is miracles do exist,” Issac Labelle, Xavier’s brother, posted on Facebook. “My deepest condolences to the Tobin family.”
During a brief meeting with reporters in Regina, Saskatchewan, Drew Wilby, a spokesman for the province’s Ministry of Justice, apologized for the mistake.
“We’ve been in touch with the families,” Mr. Wilby said. “I want to apologize to both of those families on behalf of the chief coroner and the government of Saskatchewan for the error that was made.”
He said the error was discovered late on Sunday when “new information was brought to light.” But he did not say specifically what that information was.
“As you can imagine, with a collision of this nature, there is significant trauma,” Mr. Wilby said. “The way to 100 percent confirm this is through dental records. And dental records take time.”
But Mr. Wilby said dental records were not used to correct the identification.
“A lot of these boys looked alike,” he said, adding that the players all had similar builds and had also all dyed their hair blond as a playoff ritual.
He also said members of Mr. Labelle’s family had been involved in the incorrect identification process, which took place on Saturday in a temporary morgue established in Saskatoon. But he did not explain how the family members were involved. The family could not immediately be reached for comment.
Paul Labelle, the father of Xavier, is an emergency medicine doctor in Saskatoon. He was traveling behind the team bus on Friday as it was making its way north from Humboldt for a playoff game in Nipawin, according to news reports. But emergency crews did not allow Dr. Labelle to assist, the reports said.
While the coroner’s office was sorting out the victims’ identities on Sunday, a social media movement began to take hold in Canada and elsewhere as people left hockey sticks at the front doors of their houses as a memorial to the players, and then posted photos of them online.
The movement was apparently started by Brian Munz, a play-by-play hockey commentator who is originally from Humboldt. On Sunday night he posted a text on Twitter from a high school friend in the grief-stricken town showing a hockey stick outside his door. Mr. Munz encouraged others to join in.
An estimated 5,000 people, more people than the town’s official population, poured into Humboldt’s arena and a series of overflow venues on Sunday night for a vigil to honor the dead players. Among those who attended was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.