Albany hockey team survives Berkshire bus crash

Thursday, February 19
BECKET — Five people seriously injured when a bus carrying members of the Albany River Rats hockey team crashed in Becket remain at Berkshire Medical Center today. Most of the players and traveling staff of the Albany River Rats hockey team have left Berkshire Medical Center. They were all transported there early this morning after their bus hit a guardrail and crashed along the Massachusetts Turnpike in Becket.

According to the Albany Times Union, team members Nicholas Blanchard, Joe Jensen, Casey Borer, Jonathan Paiement, and radio commentator John Hennessy are still being treated at BMC for what head coach Jeff Daniels described as "serious" injuries, including broken bones. None of the injuries are considered life threatening.

According to state police from the Westfield barracks, emergency crews responded to the accident in the westbound lane near mile marker 18 at 3:25 a.m.

Sgt. David Mahan, a Massachusetts State Police spokesman, said the bus struck a guardrail and landed on its side, blocking the entire left lane and part of the right lane. The incident closed down that portion of the turnpike, which was reopened completely around 10 a.m. today.

Mahan said the crash is believed to be weather-related. "It was snowing, very slippery," he said.

The bus was traveling through the area after the team played the Lowell Devils on Wednesday night. The Albany River Rats is a member of the American Hockey League and based in Albany, N.Y. It is an affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League.

Coach Daniels said the trip home had a late start after the bus shut down twice. Normally, he said, the team would have arrived back in Albany from Lowell around 1 a.m.

The coach said most of the team was asleep when the bus crashed.

"Everyone was stunned. We had no idea where we were," Daniels said.

Once they got their bearings after the impact, he said, the players and staff immediately opened windows and a roof hatch, and one broke the bus windshield to get everyone out.

The entire team was eventually transported to Berkshire Medical Center, a level-two trauma center, as a precaution. With the exception of those seriously injured, most of the team expects to return home today.

Though the River Rats are currently scheduled to return to the ice at the Times Union Center on Friday night to play the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the coach said the game will likely be canceled.


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