(Grant Gilbertson)

The 18-year-old killed in a crash on Sooke Road Monday night has been identified as a player of the Saanich Peninsula Panthers.

Grant Gilbertson, who was described by the team as a talented forward, was en route to practice at approximately 6 p.m. on January 3rd, when he was involved in a two-vehicle crash on Sooke Road near Humpback Road.

According to West Shore RCMP, icy road conditions appear to have played a major part in the crash.

Police said initial evidence indicates the Honda Civic was travelling westbound on Sooke Road when it lost control, veered into the oncoming lane of traffic and crashed into the Ford Escape travelling eastbound.

Bystanders attempted first aid on the scene, however, Gilbertson the driver of the Honda Civic succumbed to his injuries.

“I drove to the rink for practice around 5:30 pm and the roads were absolutely fine but when I arrived in the parking lot at the Panorama I could see that it looked really greasy,” said Panthers owner Pete Zubersky.

“Grant’s Mom called me a while later and said that she had heard that there had been an accident in the 4-lane near Humpback Road and she was worried that it might be Grant. I checked the dressing rooms downstairs and nobody had heard from him and so a few of the guys tried to contact him without any luck,” Zubersky said.

“When he didn’t show for practice and didn’t get to practice, I was getting really concerned as well.”

The team learned of Gilbertson’s death with about 20 minutes left of practice.

“It was devastating to say the least. I cannot explain the grief we felt as a group, it was palatable. I am just so saddened by this situation and I know that Grant’s family and friends have had their hearts ripped out. This is really a true tragedy in every sense of the word and our Organization’s every thought, every second of every day is on Grant and his family,” said Zubersky.

Zubersky said he spoke with Gilbertson’s grandfather several times since the incident and the team has decided to move on with their scheduled games with the blessing of the family.

“We strongly believe that the players need to be together, to be able to work through their grief with the support of each other. There has been an incredible amount of love and support from the other organizations in the league.”

“We all battle and compete night in and night out but everyone closed ranks immediately when this happened. The hockey community is a small one and a close one.”

This isn’t the first time the team has lost a teammate due to a motor vehicle crash.

In 2001, the team lost Steve Simpson in a motor vehicle accident, the morning of a game against the Oceanside Generals.

“I went to the Simpson’s home and spoke for an hour with Steve’s mother and we agreed that it was best to play, that it is what Steve would have wanted. I feel the same today,” said Zubersky.

“Our Captain at the time was Jeff Lawson and ironically he was one of the first on scene last night, arriving just after the RCMP. Jeff called me later in the evening on Monday and we talked about both Grant and Steve. Jeff told me that he thought the right thing to do was play and added that he remembered every single minute from the game 20 years ago against Oceanside. It is the right thing to do. The Panthers were extremely important to Grant and I know in my heart that he would want his teammates to play.”

The club is scheduled to play at Panorama Recreation Centre Friday, January 7th where a ceremony in celebration of Grant’s life will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m.

More details will be made available in the coming days.

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