The truck driver who caused the fatal accident involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team a year ago was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 30, of Calgary, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm. Sidhu, standing to hear the sentence, was looking straight ahead on Friday morning at the courthouse in Melfort, Saskatchewan.
Judge Inez Cardinal stated that she determined this sentence knowing full well that “we will never go back”. She pointed out that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty pleas were mitigating factors in the sentence. But the judge also explained that she had to take into account the number of people who died or were seriously injured, who faced challenges for the rest of their lives.
Sidhu had failed to respect a mandatory stop sign and his trailer was in front of the junior hockey coach that was arriving at a rural road junction in northern Saskatchewan last April. Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured – all occupants of the Broncos coach.
Judge Cardinal recalled that this collision was avoidable. “Mr. Sidhu would have had ample time to react (…) if he had been paying attention to mandatory stop signs, she said. One day we will have to put an end to this carnage on our roads. ”
The Crown wanted Sidhu to serve a 10-year sentence; the defense argued that other causes suggested a range of one to four and a half years.
Judge Cardinal began her reading on Friday, naming each of the victims of the tragedy. She added that the hundred or so statements of impact of the victims and their relatives had been overwhelming.
The judge also recalled that the hockey players who died in the accident were talented athletes, while other bus occupants dreamed of starting a family – or had already done so. “Families were torn apart; some are prone to depression, anxiety or seizures, “she said. The judge also spoke of the survivors, who, she suggested, “have a brave face to be strong”.
Sidhu’s lawyers had argued that the trucker was remorseful and that he was at risk of being deported to his home country, India, after serving his sentence. Judge Cardinal believed that Sidhu was sincere in his remorse.
A real “rocket”
At the sentencing hearing in January, it was learned that Sidhu was traveling at a speed of between 86 and 96 km / h when he passed four signs warning him of an imminent crossing – and before to approach an oversized stop sign, with flashing lights.
Crown Attorney Thomas Healey argued that Sidhu should have seen the busy road in front of him, but also the car stopped on the other side of the road, waiting as expected for the Broncos bus crossing. Healey described the truck as a “rocket” popping up at the intersection, which did not give the bus driver time to avoid the collision.
Defense lawyer Mark Brayford said Sidhu was hired by a small trucking company in Calgary three weeks earlier. He spent two weeks with another trucker before being alone on the road.
Brayford suggested that Sidhu had been distracted by a tarpaulin flapping in the wind on his load of peat moss.
The Broncos turn the page
The hockey team released a statement just after the sentencing.
“The fact that this case is resolved and the sentence is being delivered is a big step forward in the healing process for survivors, bereaved families, our organization and the community of Humboldt and the surrounding area,” said the Broncos president, Jamie Brockman.
“The sentence will be subject to differing opinions, but what is important is that Mr. Sidhu pleaded guilty, showed remorse and was held accountable for his reckless actions.”