Newfoundland born and raised Canadian Press (CP) photographer Jonathan Hayward’s photos are often seen around the world, but his most recent photos documenting the Humboldt Broncos bus crash are no cause for celebration for him.
“It’s a gut-wrenching story,” said Hayward, a former photographer with The Telegram who now works out of Vancouver as the sole CP photographer west of Toronto. “Any photographer, you live for big stories, but this is not how you want them to land on your lap.”
Hayward’s photographs of the accident are in news media around the world, and his aerial photos are being used to help reconstruct the accident, but the Portugal Cove native said photographing the tragedy has been overwhelming.
“That was hard to deal with, and I’d like to have people think about the families beyond just right now. This is when everything always gets, you know, in a week’s time, people move on, but I just want people to remember.”
As CP’s west coast photographer, Hayward covers a wide geographic area. He also travels around the world photographing stories that are important to Canadians, most recently returning from South Korea documenting the Olympics.
At the time of the collision involving a tractor-trailer and the Humboldt Broncos’ bus, Hayward was finishing a busy week photographing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, as well as Primer Minister Justin Trudeau and two Vancouver Canucks hockey games.
He walked into his house to spend the weekend with his family, when he saw a news alert, and at that time not much was known other than there was a bus crash and there was a hockey team on the bus.
Hayward was back out the door within 18 minutes to catch a flight to the scene of the accident.
“You have to be there, you have to document,” Hayward said. “You’re trying to make really good pictures which, typically, makes you feel great, but this was just so overwhelming. This was a hard assignment on so many levels.”
But he said he feels he has a responsibility as a photographer to tell Canada’s stories.
“I wear that pretty hard.”
Last Thursday, the family of Adam Herold, the youngest member of the Humboldt Broncos, invited Hayward to celebrate and remember with them on the day that would have been Adam’s 17th birthday.
“Only then did I kind of start feeling maybe a little bit better about what I was doing here,” Hayward said. “They wanted me to be there to share the story.
“They saw how the outreaching, you know, the pictures were reaching people around the world, and in return, they were getting love and support from everybody by the pictures going out.”
Hayward said it meant a lot to be there with the families, and to know that, hopefully, his photos will make a difference.
“It meant that I wasn’t just a vulture, taking from a tragedy. It meant that, in some ways, I was quite a bit helping.”
Hayward said many of the people at the birthday remembrance had questions for him because he had documented the scene of the accident.
“They had pictures on their phones from the aerials, of reconstructions of the scene — in which direction things were going, and roughly what the speeds were. So, the photos are being used to sort of help determine the cause of the accident. And when you find the cause of it, it might help figure out how we can prevent something like this from happening again.”
Hayward hopes his photos can help bring closure and effect regulatory change.
“The aerials of that bus with the roof of it ripped off, that could force regulation, along with the story, to put seatbelts on buses … and it could be 10 years’ time from now, but you always hope.”