MELFORT, Sask. – The driver of the truck involved in the accident which caused the death of several members of the junior hockey team of the Broncos Humboldt pleaded guilty to all charges against him.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu appeared Tuesday before a court of Melfort, Saskatchewan. “I plead guilty, your honour”, said the driver, dressed in a black suit, a white shirt and a tie.
Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured when the semi-trailer driven by Mr. Sidhu and the coach of the Broncos collided in a rural area of Saskatchewan, in April last. Mr. Sidhu has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The lawyer of the truck driver, Mark Brayford, said outside the courtroom that his client had insisted on pleading guilty: he did not want to negotiate a plea and did not wish to go to trial. “Mr. Sidhu has said to me: “I don’t want to make things worse. I can’t improve, but I certainly don’t want to make it worse by proceeding to trial,” said the lawyer, flanked by his client, with his head bowed.
Me Brayford, who has recently taken over the case, explained that more evidence had yet to be handed over to the defence, but Mr Sidhu wanted to avoid new delays. “He wanted the families to know that he was devastated by the grief he had caused, and he was overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that families and players have expressed, even if he is fully responsible of their sentence.”
Scott Thomas, whose son Evan, age 18, died in the accident, was sitting near the accused in court; the guilty plea was very important for him. “I raised my children by talking to them about responsibility and accountability, and to hear him use his own words to plead guilty, it is strong,” said Thomas outside the courtroom. “Now we can move on to the next step.”
The Crown has stated that it may need five days for the hearings, of sentencing, which is expected to start on 28 January. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years of age – and 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan remained paralyzed following the accident, fears that the plea of guilt by the accused will result in a lighter sentence. “I’m happy that it doesn’t do to everyone in the world a trial lengthy, exhaustive and heart-rending,” she said to The canadian Press. “However, I also hope that, in doing so, it will not receive a penalty absurdly reduced, in accordance with our judicial system.”
The father of Evan Thomas, him, did, in fact, not with the length of the sentence. “As soon as he said “guilty”, I was able to turn the page, he said. He spends a day, he spends 10 years, the term has no importance: he was guilty, he acknowledged. This is just what I needed to hear.”
The Broncos went to play a playoff game in the League, Saskatchewan junior hockey when their bus and a truck from Mr. Sidhu collided not far from Tisdale, Saskatchewan.
The bus was headed north on route 35 and the semi-trailer was heading west on route 335, on which is located a stop sign in the middle of the campaign. A report analyzing the safety of the crossing, conducted by a consulting firm for the government of Saskatchewan, was published last month. It indicates that the visibility problem at this location.
Trees, located primarily on private property, obstruct the view of motorists coming from the south and the east – the same direction the bus and the semi-trailer during the collision. The report recommends to negotiate with property owners to remove trees and suggests to install panels larger and mark the floor with inscriptions “stop in front”.
The authors of the report determined that six collisions occurred at this intersection between 1990 and 2017, and that 14 others had been held on roads in the surrounding area. One of those collisions was fatal: in 1997, six people were killed when a pickup truck failed to stop on route 335 and was struck by a semi-trailer.
The government of Saskatchewan has also added in December a compulsory training for drivers of semi-trailers. From march, drivers wishing to obtain a commercial licence of class 1 will be required to take at least a 121.5 hours of training.
The owner of the trucking company of Calgary, who has hired Mr. Singh has also been accused after the accident. Sukhmander Singh, the trucking company Adesh Deol, is facing eight counts of non-compliance with regulations-federal and provincial security.