Mom of player says son didn't think he'd survive

Michelle and Tom Straschnitzki are filled with immense gratitude that their son Ryan survived Friday night's horrific bus crash in Saskatchewan, and at the same time "absolutely beside ourselves" about the deaths of his Humboldt Broncos teammates, coaches and others associated with the team.

Fifteen people were killed and 14 others injured when the bus and a transport truck collided at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335.

"It's absolutely devastating. Hearts are just absolutely gutted," Michelle Straschnitzki said in an interview with The National's Susan Ormiston. 

Straschnitzki is also focused on helping Ryan, 18, stay positive after suffering a devastating back injury.

Ryan Straschnitzki is still processing the devastating loss of his teammates, coaches, bus driver and others as he recovers from his injuries in a Saskatoon hospital, his mother says. (Submitted by Tom Straschnitzki)

Doctors at the Saskatoon hospital where he underwent surgery on Sunday told him there's a "better than average chance that he won't play hockey again," Straschnitzki said. "Possibly even walk, we're not sure.

"But he's strong, so I wouldn't count him out."

The defenceman's parents were at their neighbour's home in Airdrie, Alta., on Friday night when they heard the bus crash happened from a friend who saw a tweet about it, Straschnitzki said. They immediately went home, where all they could do was wait.

"Every parent's nightmare, absolutely," Straschnitzki said. 

After an agonizing two hours, they got a call saying Ryan was alive, but there was little information about his injuries.

'Lying on the pavement just waiting'

"We were really grateful just to hear that," Straschnitzki said. "Not knowing what the road ahead was going to be like. But we were very grateful."

Then, later Friday night, Ryan called his parents from hospital.

"He was kind of out of it, but we heard his voice so that meant everything to us," his mother said.  

She and her husband arrived at the hospital in Saskatoon on Saturday, where Ryan was still intubated after surgery.

"You don't ever want to see your child like that," Straschnitzki said. 

But he came through it, she said, and then was "himself again," giving them "an enormous amount of relief."

She's since learned more about the trauma Ryan and his teammates suffered in the crash, and afterward. 

"He didn't think he was going to make it," Straschnitzki said. "The crash was so devastating the boys were lying on the pavement just waiting for the first responders. He couldn't move so he didn't know what to do."


Her son is still processing the full impact of what happened and she expects "he's probably going to go through a lot of things, like survivors' guilt, and just the absolute devastating loss of it all," she said. "They're all brothers." 

Straschnitzki said Ryan is strong both physically and mentally, and has "all kinds of support around him."

"We're trying to explain to him that, you know, it's going to be a different path but it's going to be a good path. It doesn't matter what it is because he's still the same person."

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