Families of the victims of the fatal crash involving the Humboldt Broncos bus are outraged following the release of a book that they consider opportunistic and exploitative.

‘Humble beginnings of the Humboldt Broncos and the 2017-2018 team’ by Barry Heath was released in September in the days prior to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League club’s home opener. The book was published without the support of the Humboldt Broncos or the families of the victims and chronicles the team’s history including the tragic crash in April, the outpouring of support for the team, and the record-setting GoFundMe fundraising campaign.

The April 6, 2018 crash involving the team’s bus and a semi-tractor trailer claimed the lives of 16 members of the team including support staff and left 13 others injured.

The families of the victims say the author, who previously worked as a Saskatchewan coroner and veterinarian, reached out to them in the weeks following the crash.

“The 29 families have been united since the beginning,” explained Toby Boulet, who lost his son Logan in the crash. “Dr. Heath sent out letters to a few of us that already had spoken to the media about three or four weeks after the crash. Everything was pretty raw and it’s still raw today.”

“Basically, nobody answered him, nobody responded. In my world when you don’t get a response that means no.”

Boulet, a resident of Lethbridge, says Heath persisted with his attempts to gather quotes and the families called on the Humboldt Broncos president to intervene. According to Boulet, Heath responded to the request by stating he would still write his book using clips from existing interviews between the families and media outlets.

“Lo and behold, he then publishes his book and he releases it on the twelfth of September,” said Boulet. “On the fifteenth he’s having a book signing at the Coles in Lloydminster which coincides perfectly with the Humboldt Broncos home opener on September 12th. He didn’t have to pay for any press.”  

“He didn’t tell anybody but one of the parents found out and a bunch of us called Coles and talked to the manager and she agreed to cancel the book signing.”

On Monday, Christina George-Haugan, the widow of Humboldt Broncos coach Darcy Haugan, took to Facebook to condemn Heath’s book.:

‘A man by the name Barry Heath has written a book about the tragedy and nightmare we have all been living. He has done this without the support and endorsement of any family involved in this. In fact he was specifically asked not to do this at this time as none of us felt ready for something like that. Would you please do me a favour and not purchase this book and support him and share this so others don’t as well? I would appreciate that!’

According to Heath, two of the Humboldt Broncos families initially agreed to cooperate with the writing of his book. The parents of Ryan Straschnitzki, a crash survivor from Airdrie who was left paralyzed, say they had nothing to do with the book and Heath’s take will not tell the real story.

“It’s not his story to tell and it’s not from us,” said Michelle Straschnitzki, Ryan’s mother. “We are urging people to please not buy this book thinking you are helping out the families and the Broncos.”

The book does appear on Chapters Indigo’s website for $20 but is listed as ‘out of stock’ and there are currently no copies available at any of the company’s stores in Calgary. Indigo officials did not respond to CTV’s request for comment regarding the decision to carry Heath’s book.

Jaskirat Sidhu of Calgary faces charges of dangerous driving causing death (16 counts) and dangerous driving causing bodily harm (13 counts) in connection with the crash. Sidhu, 29, is scheduled to appear in Melfort Provincial Court on October 23 for defence election.

With files from CTV’s Brenna Rose