Truck driver in Hum­boldt Bron­cos crash pleads guilty to all charges

De­fence lawyers says de­ci­sion was made to avoid fur­ther de­lays for griev­ing par­ents

StarMetro Edmonton - - EDMONTON - Ryan McKenna

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.

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