Guilty plea for semi driver charged in Humboldt Broncos bus crash
The semi driver charged in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has entered a guilty plea to 29 counts of dangerous driving.
“I plead guilty, your honour,” Jaskirat Singh Sidhu told a judge in a Melfort, Sask., courtroom Tuesday morning.
Sixteen people, including 10 Bronco players, were killed and 13 injured when the team’s bus and a semi collided at an intersection in eastern Saskatchewan as the team was heading to a playoff game in Nipawin.
Sidhu was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 of dangerous driving causing bodily harm three months after the April 6, 2018, crash.
Scott Thomas, whose son Evan was one of the players killed in the crash, said the guilty plea brings closure to him.
WATCH: Guilty plea in Humboldt crash spares families from reliving grief in trial
“When he said guilty, I had my closure,” said Thomas, who was present in court.
“If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years (in jail), 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’s not going to bring Evan back.”
WATCH: Thomas family reflects on guilty plea in Humboldt Broncos crash
Chris Joseph’s son Jaxon was also killed in the crash. Speaking to Global News in St. Albert, Alta., on Tuesday night, Joesph said the guilty plea conjured up mixed emotions for him and other Edmonton-area parents whose sons were involved in the crash.
“I don’t want to speak for all the families, but I think we’re grateful that he chose not to drag it out,” he said.
“I think there’s maybe a little bit of respect, I don’t even know if that’s the right word, but maybe a little bit of respect that the remorse he felt made him want to just plead guilty.”
Saskatoon criminal defence lawyer Mark Brayford said his client pleaded voluntarily, giving up his right to a trial.
“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,’” Brayford said outside of court.
WATCH BELOW: Semi driver pleads guilty to all charges in Humboldt Broncos deadly bus crash
Brayford said his client didn’t want to make things worse by having a trial and is devastated by the grief he has caused the families.
“He’s overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness some of the families and players have expressed to him in spite of the fact their grief is his fault, and he’s very sorry for that,” Brayford said.
Thomas said to hear Sidhu take responsibility for his actions was “powerful.”
“To hear him use his own words to plead guilty, it was powerful,” an emotional Thomas said.
“It acknowledged what we felt right from the start, that he was responsible for that accident scene, and now we can move forward with the next part of this.”
LISTEN: Scott Thomas joins The Morning News in Calgary to discuss how Broncos families are processing the guilty plea
The Humboldt Broncos hockey club thanked Sidhu for “taking responsibility for his actions and pleading guilty.”
“Mr. Sidhu’s guilty pleas are a positive step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, the team and our community,” said Broncos president Jamie Brockman in a statement.
“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.”
Sidhu, who is from Calgary, has been out on $1,000 bail since July with a number of conditions. He must stay in his Calgary home under a curfew, is banned from driving, and had to surrender his passport.
WATCH BELOW: Coverage of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, and charges against the semi driver
Sentencing is scheduled to take place on Jan. 28 in Melfort.
Dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, while dangerous driving causing bodily harm has a maximum sentence of 10 years.
He was driving for Adesh Deol trucking company, and the director of the trucking company, Sukmander Singh, said in April that Sidhu had started working for him about a month before the crash.
Singh is facing eight charges related to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations.
WATCH: ‘It shows how remorseful he is’: Ryan Straschnitzki’s father responds to guilty plea.
Seven charges are under the federal Motor Vehicle Transport Act: two counts of failing to maintain logs for driver’s hours of service, three counts of failing to monitor the compliance of a driver under safety regulations, and two counts of having more than one daily log for any day.
The eighth charge under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act alleges failure to have or follow a written safety program.
WATCH: Michelle Straschnitzki ‘relieved’ Humbolt families won’t face long trial after guilty plea.
Alberta Transportation said Adesh Deol Trucking remains suspended.
With files from Ryan Kessler and the Canadian Press.
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