Truck driver pleads guilty in Broncos bus tragedy
January 8, 2019 12:04 pm
The semi driver involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy entered a guilty plea in Melfort provincial court Tuesday morning.
His lawyer said he entered the guilty plea because he didn’t want to make things harder on the families by having a trial.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, appeared in Melfort Provincial Court Tuesday and entered the guilty plea to all 29 charges in the crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 others
On July 6 he was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing injury, following a three-month investigation by RCMP.
The maximum sentence for the charges is 14 years for causing death and 10 for causing injury.
Sidhu decided not to comment directly to the media, but stood beside his defence lawyer Mark Rayford outside court following the guilty plea.
“His position to me was he wanted to plead guilty, ‘I don’t want you to plea bargain, I don’t want a trial.’ Mr. Sidhu advised me, ‘ I don’t want to make things any worse. I can’t make them any better but I certainly don’t want to make them any worse by having a trial,'” Rayford said.
Rayford added that Sidhu wanted the families to know that he’s devastated by the grief that he has caused and he is overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness some of the families and players have given him in spite of the fact that their grief is “entirely his fault.”
Sidhu will remain free until his sentencing hearing which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 28. The presiding judge said that, rather than using the courthouse, an alternative venue may be found within Melfort to accommodate the victims’ families.
The bus had the right of way when it collided with the semi Sidhu was driving at the intersection of Highways 3 and 335 north of Tisdale on April 6, 2017.
The junior hockey team was on its way to a playoff game when tragedy struck: 10 young hockey players were killed in the crash along with the head coach, assistant coach, bus driver, play-by-play radio announcer, the team’s statistician and athletic therapist.
Thirteen other players were injured. The crash sparked a wave of response and support from around the world.
Scott Thomas’s son Evan was one of the players killed in the crash and was in the courtroom as Sidhu entered his plea.
Outside the courthouse, Thomas said he felt closure when the driver said the word “guilty” and the sentence doesn’t matter to him personally.
“If he spends a day – if he spends 10 years time is irrelevant. He was guilty, he acknowledged that. That’s all I needed to hear,” Thomas said. “The rest of the sentence doesn’t matter to me, it’s not going to bring Evan back.”
He said he will have to spend the rest of his life without his son, and the driver will have to spend the rest of his life living with the guilt of that.
The crash occurred at the intersection of two busy highways. The Saskatchewan government has since pledged to install rumble strips, lights, signs and road markers in the area.
The accident made international headlines, and support for the junior hockey team poured in from around the world. A GoFundMe campaign raised $15 million that was eventually divided between victims and their families.
Sukhmander Singh, owner and director of Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. and Sidhu's employer at the time of the crash, faces eight counts of failing to comply with various safety and log-keeping regulations.
Sidhu, who was not hurt, was released on $1,000 bail in July under conditions that he not drive and that he surrender his passport.