MELFORT, Sask. – The driver of a transport truck involved in a deadly crash with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus has pleaded guilty to all charges against him.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu appeared in a court in Melfort, Sask., Tuesday morning.
Sixteen people lost their lives and 13 players were injured when Sidhu’s semi-unit loaded with peat moss and the Broncos bus collided in rural Saskatchewan last April.
Sidhu was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League when their bus and Sidhu’s rig collided not far from Tisdale, Sask.
“I plead guilty, your honour,” said Sidhu, who was wearing a black suit with white dress shirt and tie.
The Crown said it might need up to five days for sentencing. The case was adjourned until Jan. 28.
The mother of a player as a result of the crash says the truck driver shouldn’t get off lightly because he has admitted his guilt.
Ryan Straschnitzki’s mother, Michelle, says she hopes the plea doesn’t mean the driver will get what she calls an “absurdly reduced sentence.”
Scott Thomas, whose son Evan died, says the guilty plea was all he wanted to hear.
He says it doesn’t matter to him whether Sidhu spends one day or 10 years in jail for the crash at a Saskatchewan intersection last spring.
Logan Boulet’s family says they are thankful that Sidhu has saved them from an exhausting trial with video images of the crash that killed their son and with details families want to keep private.
Sidhu’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, said more evidence is still to be handed over to the defence, but his client wanted to plead guilty to avoid further delay. The bus was travelling north on Highway 35 and the semi was westbound on Highway 335, which has a stop sign.
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A safety review of the rural crossroads done by a consulting firm for the Saskatchewan government was released last month. It said sight lines are a safety concern at the spot. A stand of trees, mostly on private property, 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 said.
It recommended negotiating with the landowner to remove the trees, and also suggested rumble strips, larger signs and painting “Stop” and “Stop Ahead” on the road.
The report’s authors determined that six collisions had taken place at the intersection between 1990 and 2017 and another 14 happened on roads nearby.
One of those collisions was deadly. In 1997, six people were killed when a pickup truck heading east failed to stop on Highway 335 and was hit by a southbound tractor-trailer.
The Saskatchewan government further introduced in December mandatory training for semi-truck drivers. Starting in March, drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence are to undergo at least 121.5 hours of training.
Previously, Saskatchewan Government Insurance accredited driving schools but training was not mandatory.
The owner of the Calgary trucking company that hired Singh was also charged after the crash.
Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking faces eight charges relating to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations.
— 660 NEWS Calgary (@660NEWS) January 8, 2019
The Humboldt Broncos also released a statement on the guilty pleas.
“Mr. Sidhu’s guilty pleas are a positive step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, the team and our community. I commend Mr. Sidhu for taking responsibility for his actions and sparing the survivors and the families the anguish and turmoil of rehashing this tragedy in court,” said Humboldt Bronco’s President Jamie Brockman. “I know Mr. Sidhu has also been deeply affected by this tragedy. His careless actions will haunt him for the rest of his life, and I’m sure it is a relief to move forward.”