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Rats injured in bus crash UPDATE 6

By Phil Janack
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Here is a transcript of what River Rats head coach-GM Jeff Daniels had to say about the team's early-morning bus crash in Becket, Mass. that left four players and the team's radio color commentator in a Pittsfield hospital.

Daniels spoke with a group of media inside the former Knickerbocker Arena adjacent to the Yankee Trails coach that carried the remainder of the team back to Albany, where they arrived at 11:04 a.m.

"Right now Nick Blanchard, Joe Jensen, Casey Borer, Jonathan Paiement and John Hennessy are being kept in the hospital overnight. Again, it's nothing life-threatening or career-threatening, but they're in a situation right now where they need to be in the hospital just to make sure they're getting the treatment they need."

Other guys shaken up?
"Emotionally and physically. Everyone had to see a doctor to be released from the hospital. That's why we're just getting back now. Guys are banged up. Just from the impact of the crash, from being tossed from one side of the bus to the other and flipping around. Some guys that are on the bus are cut, stitches, to whiplash to some guys are concussed. Lot of bumps and bruises and also on top of that, just the mental part of being in a crash like that and being able to walk away."

What was it like?
"About 3 o clock in the morning when we started to lose control of the bus. We went from one side to the other and next thing you know we flipped. We ended up on the guardrail with the front end of the bus still in the road on the highway and the other end of the bus on the guardrail. At that point, the guys were in shock, not realizing we were still on the highway with semi trucks still blowing by us at a pretty good speed. From what I heard, three just missed us.

"At that point the guys kind of reassessed where they're at and started climbing out windows and climbing out through the roof to a common area between the two highways, a big grass area which was all snow last night. All 29 people on the bus were able to walk off the bus but at that point you definitely could tell who were a little banged up and who needed some treatment. It took about a good 20-25 minutes before the fire trucks and medical help did arrive and got the guys to the hospital."

How long would you say the whole process was?
"It's funny. As quick as it happened, to be in the bus it seemed like slow motion to actually be awake and watch it. Maybe a couple minutes. It didn't seem long, that's for sure, but it was definitely when you're being tossed around in slow motion a lot of thoughts are going through your head pretty quick. At that point, again, not realizing that you're still in the middle of the highway, obviously the trucks coming behind you are coming at a pretty good pace and just missing us in some bad weather. It was a good 25 minutes before we did get some help on the scene."

Surprised everybody able to walk off the bus?
"We're very fortunate as I said to have all 29 people walk off the bus and then kind of walk away and look back at the bus and think, 'Wow. We are fortunate to walk off that bus,' because it was in rough shape. I think all the guys feel fortunate to be able to walk off the bus. Obviously, some guys are more banged up than others, but it's a scary thought to look at it."

Does Carolina have something in place to deal with that?
"Yeah, we talked. I'm trying to keep the guys away from the media today, just to let them step away. I know they'll be available throughout the weekend, but I think today it's best for them to get away and get home. We're going to probably meet throughout the weekend and probably bring somebody in just to talk to the group about what happened and if some guys need some one-on-one talk and are not feeling great mentally about it, we'll have somebody there to help them."

Mental aspect more of a concern?
"It's going to be huge. Obviously that's a big wakeup call, walking away from that bus and knowing how close you were to not walking off the bus. I just said on the bus to them, some guys might feel pretty good right now but when they try to go to sleep, whether it's this afternoon or tonight, they might have a flashback of what happened to them or where they were at or what they were thinking. You know, I'm worried about it. Guys have been up all night. They're going to get some sleep but for me it's very vivid in my memory what happened and what I was doing at the time."

"That's our main concern right now, as I said to you earlier, just mentally healthy and physically healthy and right now hockey is definitely secondary."

Talk to driver?
"Not at this point. Obviously, it was chaos once it did happen. Both the bus driver and Geordie Kinnear my assistant coach were really focusing on getting the guys off the bus because they saw the trucks coming through the highway and obviously in the back of the bus you can't see that. They did a good job of veering cars off. At that point, I wouldn't say it was panicked; everything was very calm considering what happened. Guys weren't running around but they were in a state of shock.

"We usually have the same driver. We had a different driver this trip, our regular driver was on another assignment so he wasn't with us. We had bus trouble earlier in the trip. Our bus kind of shut down about 20 minutes outside of Lowell, so we sat in a gas station until about 1 o'clock in the morning for another bus to come up from Albany and pick us up just outside Lowell. We would have been home by 1 o'clock but at that point we were just leaving to get back to Albany. It happened roughly around 3 o'clock."

Take travel for granted?
"You do. Sometimes when you're caught in that late snowstorm and the drivers do an incredible job, but it does cross your mind the amount of time you spend on the bus and you go through some tough conditions. Unfortunately it caught up to us today and we experienced it today. It's something that you hope you never experience again because it wasn't a lot of fun."

More specfic about nature of injuries?
"No, at this point from when I talked to the doctors that's what they were kind of looking at. I don't want to say something and then come back and say this was it. I'd rather wait until I get confirmation from the doctors. I'll be in contact with the hospital, just wanting to check on the players and see how they're doing and John Hennessy and also to see if there's any more update on the injuries.

"I think a couple could be, again not career-threatening, but I think they could be whether miss the year or a month of time."

Speak to injured players?
"Disbelief, groggy. Couple guys walked by the room and they were sleeping, and a couple guys were getting worked on. Obviously, they all talked to their families. That ws the main concern, that's why I was holding back earlier today. I wanted to make sure the families were taken care of first. At this point, I'm really not too clear on the injuries but I don't want to start saying something and it's something else."

Friday/Sunday home games postponed?
"Our gear was scattered all over the road. From what I heard, Justin Peters goal mask was squashed flat like a pancake, so we wouldn't even have equipment to play let alone players in their mental state right now.

"From a mental and physcial standpoint, I'd only have 20 guys to dress tomorrow night, to the basics of we don't have equipment. Our equipment was scattered all over the highway. Some stuff was shattered. We have no idea what state our gear is in, and that's way down on the chart."

Meet on Friday?
"We're going to meet here as a group. I just want to touch base with the team and see where they're at after a night of sleeping on it. I want to get somebody in here to talk to us, whether it helps. It might only help one guy, which would be great, or it might help all of us, we don't know. It's real important after experiencing a crash like that and walking away feeling thankful that you are."

 
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