Melfort, Saskatchewan — The driver whose transport truck crashed into a hockey team bus in Canada, killing 16 people, pleaded guilty Tuesday to all charges against him.
Thirteen others were injured when Jaskirat Singh Sidhu’s truck loaded with peat moss collided with the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus in rural Saskatchewan in April.
The 30-year-old Sidhu pleaded guilty to 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.
The case was adjourned until Jan. 28 for sentencing.
“His position to me was, ‘I just want to plead guilty. I don’t want you to plea bargain. I don’t want a trial,’” Sidhu’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, said outside court, his client beside him with his head down.
“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 more evidence is still to be handed over to the defense, but his client wanted to plead guilty to avoid further delay.
“He wanted the families to know he is devastated by the grief he has caused them,” Brayford said. “He is overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families and players have expressed to him in spite of the fact that their grief is entirely his fault.”
The bus was travelling north on Highway 35 and the semi was westbound on Highway 335, which has a stop sign.
The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years. It’s 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Scott Thomas, whose 18-year-old son Evan died in the crash, sat near Sidhu in court and said the guilty plea meant a lot to him.
“All I’ve ever told my kids is speaking about accountability and responsibility and to hear him use his own words to plead guilty, it’s powerful,” Thomas said, fighting his emotions outside court
“Now we can move forward with the next part of this.”
Tom Straschnitzki, whose 19-year-old son Ryan was one of two survivors who were paralyzed, said he wants more answers about what happened and what the trucker was thinking.
“You’re taught when you’re young: red light, green light, and look both ways,” he said. “Why didn’t he do that? Was he just in a hurry? Did he have to get a load in right away? Was he pressured by his bosses?”
Michelle Straschnitzki, Ryan’s mother, said she is worried the guilty plea will mean a lighter sentence.
“I’m glad he won’t be putting everyone through a lengthy, exhaustive and heartbreaking trial,” she said. “However, I also hope that by doing so, he doesn’t get an absurdly reduced sentence as per our justice system.”
Thomas said he’s not worried about the time Sidhu could serve.
“When he said, ‘Guilty,’ to me, I have my closure,” he said. “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. The rest of the sentence doesn’t matter to me. It really doesn’t. It is not going to bring Evan back. I’ve got to spend the rest of my life with it. He’s got to spend the rest of his life with it.”
The owner of the Calgary trucking company that hired Singh, Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking, also faces eight charges relating to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations.