Jaskirat Singh Sidhu said he takes full responsibility for what happened on April 6, 2018, when the Humboldt Broncos team bus crashed into the semi-trailer he was driving.
“I can’t even imagine what you guys are going through or what you have been through. I have taken the most valuable things of your life,” Sidhu said as he apologized to the families of the victims.
“I was on the side of the door, with the passenger side door above me. I came out of the truck and I heard the kids crying.
“It took me time to see or realize that it’s a bus.”
“I take full responsibility of what has happened. It happened because of my lack of experience.”
A Crown prosecutor said Sidhu should serve 10 years in prison.
Thomas Healey told a sentencing hearing Thursday in Melfort, Sask., that the horrific and unprecedented collision calls for a lengthy sentence.
“This was not just an accident,” Healey stated.
“This was a crime, a very serious crime”
Sentencing submissions started Thursday morning for Sidhu who pleaded guilty to 29 dangerous driving charges in the crash.
WATCH: Truck driver apologizes to Humboldt crash victims’ families
Sixteen people were killed and 13 injured when the team’s bus struck the semi driven by Sidhu on April 6, 2018, in eastern Saskatchewan.
Sidhu’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, said lack of experience was a factor and Sidhu should not have been driving a “double-trailer in slippery conditions in an area he did not know.”
“He was in way over his head.”
Brayford said his client beats himself up every day over not stopping at the stop sign and didn’t even know he had gone through an intersection until after he got out of his truck.
“He had no idea what happened,” Brayford said without providing a clear sentencing recommendation.
He did state probation would not be appropriate, and any sentence over six months will result in a removal order for Sidhu as he is not a Canadian citizen.
The Crown is also asking for the maximum driving prohibition of 10 years.
The judge will hand down her decision on March 22.
Healey said Sidhu was travelling between 86 and 96 km/hr when he passed four signs warning about the upcoming intersection before he came across an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.
“Mr. Sidhu had more than enough time to bring the semi to a complete stop,” said Healey.
Healey also said Sidhu should have seen the busy highway coming up right in front of him or a car stopped across the road and waiting for the Broncos bus to pass.
“How do you miss that? It’s just astounding,” Healey said. “All he had to do was stop. That’s all.”
WATCH BELOW: Widow of Humboldt Broncos’ late coach offers forgiveness to truck driver
Healey said it wasn’t a case of rolling through a stop sign.
“This was more like a rocket,” he said.
“There was no where for the bus driver, Glen Doerksen, to go …. He tried. He did all he could do.”
An agreed statement of facts found Sidhu ran an oversized stop sign with a flashing red light.
A forensic report found there was no way for the driver of the bus, Glen Doerksen, to avoid the collision.
The report also found Sidhu had 70 violations of federal and provincial trucking regulations and inspection rules and would have been suspended for 72 hours if he had been stopped.
Brayford said his client started working for a small trucking company three weeks before the crash, after undergoing a week of training.
He spent roughly the first two weeks driving a double-trailer with the owner before driving on his own.
“(Sidhu) personally accepts responsibility” of applying for and taking the job “with the complete absence of prior driving skill,” Brayford said.
He said Sidhu saw the signs as he approached the intersection, but was concerned about a flapping tarp he was viewing in the mirror.
“Obviously he saw the signs and was so concerned about something else, it wasn’t registering,” Brayford said.
“It seems indisputable that he didn’t choose to drive through the stop sign.
“My client’s degree of responsibility for the consequences is 100 per cent.”
Roughly 90 victim impact statements were submitted during the first three days of the hearing at a makeshift courtroom in Melfort, Sask.
Christina Haugan, the widow of head coach Darcy Haugin, said she has forgiven Sidhu as she didn’t want her or her children to live in anger.
“I knew I needed to forgive him, and I knew before when I was writing [the victim impact statement] that Darcy would expect and want that from us as a family,” she explained.
Others feel different.
Andrea Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., whose son Jaxon died in the crash, says Sidhu broke the law and deserves a lengthy prison sentence, calling him a monster.
WATCH BELOW: Mother of Humboldt Broncos player killed in crash calls for crackdown on semis running stop signs
Some families want to hear from Sidhu to know why he ran a stop sign.
“I want to know why. That would be a huge part in me finding forgiveness to understand why,” Scott Thomas of Saskatoon, whose son Evan died in the crash, told reporters Tuesday.
One legal expert told Global News there has never been a case like this in the country.
Criminal defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle, who is not involved in the case, said it will be precedent setting for all the wrong reasons.
“This is a very difficult task, because what the public expects and the justice system is capable of doing are really two different, distinct things,” Pfefferle said.
“Sentencing is often said to be an individualized process, but judges use other cases to formulate their positions and this is a case that is going to be, in many respects, unlike any other.”
WATCH BELOW: Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims read impact statements at sentencing hearing
Pfefferle added there are no cases of this magnitude in Canada counsel can draw on in terms of sentencing ranges or recommendations.
Sidhu faces a maximum sentence of 14 years for each count of dangerous driving causing death and 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
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