The accident ended up with five in the hospital, but to hear River Rats Coach Jeff Daniels describe the bus crash his team went through on the way back to Albany from a game in Lowell, Massachusetts, it could have been much worse.
“I just woke up just as it was all happening,” he said. “We were losing control and kind of sliding, and all of the sudden I just remember flying from my seat up to the front of the bus into the front windshield. The next thing you know when the bus came to rest, we were on our side.
“The front part of the bus was still on the highway in a lane, and we weren’t even thinking about other cars coming behind us, and we were fortunate to be missed by, I was told, two or three semi trucks. Once people came to their senses, some guys were kicking out the front windshield wipers, some guys were climbing out of the windows underneath the bus and some guys were climbing through the roof of the bus to a common area. At that point, you then started to see which players and staff members were a little banged up and needed some treatments.”
The one-vehicle accident, reportedly caused by snowy highway conditions, occurred at around 3 a.m. Thursday. While all 29 passengers went to the hospital to at least get checked out, the injuries to players Nicolas Blanchard
, Casey Borer, Joe Jensen, Jonathan Paiement and radio commentator John Hennessy caused them to be admitted to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They are all expected to be released sometime in the next few days.
“I know it’s not life-threatening, and from my understanding it’s also not career-threatening,” said Daniels of the hospitalized players. “Some guys might miss a good portion of time this year. I could guess on a couple of guys, but I don’t want to at this point until I get confirmation from the doctor of exactly what the injuries are. The big picture right now is just their health. Hockey is secondary for everybody right now.”
Although their injuries weren’t serious enough to keep them in the hospital, nearly everyone involved in the accident was hurt in one way or another.
“The guys that were released, they’re banged up from the impact,” said Daniels. “From concussions to stitches, whether it’s their back or the feet from the glass, shoulder stiffness and back stiffness.
"It’s incredible to walk away from it and look back at the bus. You feel fortunate that it wasn’t worse. Everyone on that bus was at some point thrown from their seat to the other side of the aisle or to the front of the bus. Everyone was affected by it, and to have everyone be able to walk or crawl out of the bus is just incredible and we are very fortunate."
Due to the number of players physically unable to play in the game, the mental state of the team and the damaged equipment that was on the bus, tomorrow night’s home game against Bridgeport has been cancelled.
The American Hockey League has given the team the option of not playing on Sunday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which Daniels says they will consider once they get over the initial shock of what happened – something that could be just as difficult as dealing with the physical pain.
“Everyone will probably be different with the way they handle it,” said Daniels. “In an accident like that, the guys were incredibly calm even in shock. I was really proud of the way the guys came together and helped out the guys that were in need. We’re out there, it was snowing, it was 3:00 in the morning and there were guys in pretty much shirts and no jackets coming together and looking after one another. It made me proud of them the way they handled it.”