Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash pleads guilty to all charges
Defence lawyers says decision was made to avoid further delays for grieving parents
MELFORT, SASK.—Scott Thomas was sitting nearby in the courtroom Tuesday when a truck driver pleaded guilty to every charge against him in a highway crash that killed 16 people on a junior hockey bus and left 13 players forever scarred by the disaster.
Thomas lost his 18-year old son, Evan, in the Humboldt Broncos collision and always wanted the trucker to take responsibility.
Standing in the bitter cold outside the provincial courthouse in Melfort, Sask., the Saskatoon father said he’s relieved the case is moving on to sentencing.
He isn’t worried about whether Jaskirat Singh Sidhu will go to prison for a long time.
“If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years, time is irrelevant,” Thomas said, fighting Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of a truck involved in the crash with the Humboldt Broncos, said he didn’t want to make things worse by going to trial.
through his emotions. “He was guilty. He acknowledged that. That’s all I needed to hear.”
Sidhu was driving a transport truck loaded with peat moss last April when the rig
and the Broncos team bus collided at a rural intersection. The team had been on its way to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game.
“I plead guilty, your honour,” Sidhu said as he stood
before the judge.
Guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death. Guilty to 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
He made no other comment as he left the courthouse and put his head down as he stood next to his lawyer. Mark Brayford, who recently took on the case, said more evidence still needs to be handed over to the defence, but Sidhu wanted to avoid further delays and plead guilty.
“Mr. Sidhu advised me: ‘I don’t want to make things any worse. I can’t make things any better, but I certainly don’t want to make them worse by having a trial,’ ” Brayford said.
“He wanted the families to know that he’s devastated by the grief that he’s caused them. And he’s overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families and players have expressed to him in spite of the fact their grief is entirely his fault.”
Crown lawyer Thomas Healey said he might need up to five days for a sentencing hearing, which is to begin Jan. 28. He would not comment further.
The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years. It’s 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Evidence from the crash and of the truck driver’s actions have not yet been submitted to the court.
The bus was travelling north on Highway 35 and the semi was westbound on Highway 335, which has a stop sign.
A safety review done for the Saskatchewan government was released last month. It said sight lines at the spot are a safety concern and recommended removing a stand of trees that obstructs the view of drivers approaching from the south and east — the same directions the bus and semi-trailer were coming from when they collided. The review further recommended rumble strips, larger signs and painting “Stop’’ and “Stop Ahead’’ on the road.
The owner of a Calgary trucking company that hired Singh was also charged after the crash.