The owner, general manager and coach of the French River Rapids of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League told Hockey News North that he saw his life flash before his eyes when the team bus recently barrelled off the highway and went down an eight-foot embankment and almost tipped over. “All I could think of is that we were going to die,” said Paul Frustaglio in the aftermath of the Saturday morning accident that occurred when French River was returning home from a Friday night game in Kirkland Lake against the Gold Miners.
Frustaglio added that he truly believes that an act of divine intervention by his late son, Evan, saved all who were on board the bus from a tragic ending similar to the one that befell the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Jr. Hockey League in April of 2018.
Frustaglio said the French River team was about a half hour from its home base of Noelville when the crash happened just after 1:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Frustaglio said he and several players have whiplash and headaches but aside from that there were no major injuries reported.
“We’re lucky we ended up in a field,” Frustaglio said. “I don’t know how the bus didn’t tip. Everybody was holding on for dear life. We were just very lucky. There was some sort of intervention, I’m telling you that right now.”
It was about nine years ago that Frustaglio’s aforementioned son, Evan — who was a promising young hockey player in the Greater Toronto Area — fell ill at a tournament in London. Several days later, 13-year old Evan died in his dad’s arms from the H1N1 influenza epidemic that had swept through Ontario.
Fast forward to now, Evan’s younger brother Will plays for their dad in French River and is one of the top scorers on the Rapids. Thus, Will — who was 10-years old when Evan died — was on the bus with his dad at the time of the Saturday morning crash.
“Evan is the angel who saved us,” said the elder Frustaglio. “The bus was tipping and how it came back, I don’t know. It was a miracle. The snow was about a foot-and-a-half to two feet deep and the bus was like a plow going through the snow and nobody could see outside. All you could see was snow. I got thrown to the ground and there was stuff thrown all over the bus. A few kids banged their heads. I don’t know how the bus didn’t flip. “
In almost eerie fashion, the bus accident involving the French River team happened almost nine months to the day after the deadly crash that killed 10 players and six others relative to the aforementioned Humboldt Broncos.