Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was an inexperienced semi-truck driver dealing with navigation difficulties and distracted by a tarp flapping off the back of his truck when he blew through a stop sign and collided with the Humboldt Broncos bus, his lawyer says.
Sidhu’s defence lawyer Mark Brayford made the comments during a sentencing hearing in Saskatchewan on Thursday, revealing new details about the day of the tragic crash that left 16 dead and 13 injured. Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 dangerous driving charges earlier this month, avoiding a trial.
Global News reporter Ryan Kessler live-tweeted Brayford’s comments from the hearing, where cameras were not allowed.
Sidhu, who moved to Canada from India with his wife in 2013, had taken training to become a transport truck driver and obtained his licence shortly before the April 6, 2018, crash.
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On March 17, 2018, he gained employment with a small transport company. After a few weeks working with the owner, he began driving solo. Sidhu, his lawyer admits, was not ready.
“He personally accepts the responsibility,” Brayford said, of applying for the job and of taking the job “with the complete absence of prior driving skill.”
The day before the crash, Sidhu drove from Calgary to Saskatoon to make a delivery. Then he drove from Saskatoon to Carrot River, using GPS voice navigation to find his way after getting lost. In Carrot River, he picked up a load of peat moss.
At one point on his journey, the road was slippery and he needed assistance to get moving again.
A tarp flapping in the wind off the back of his truck proved to be a “complete distraction” for Sidhu, who had stopped to adjust the tarp shortly before the crash, Brayford said.
As Sidhu approached the intersection where he would collide with the Humboldt Broncos bus, he was “inappropriately focused” on the tarp and looking back in the vehicle’s mirror, Brayford said, and didn’t register the signs warning of the upcoming stop sign and intersection.
“I suggest a classic case of his inexperience working against him,” Brayford said. “That’s his responsibility and he recognizes it.”
“Obviously, he saw the signs and was so concerned about something else, it wasn’t registering.”
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Sidhu did not even realize he had gone through an intersection until after the crash when he exited his vehicle, Brayford said.
“He had no idea he was at an intersection. He had no idea what happened.”
Sidhu takes 100 per cent of the responsibility for the devastating crash, Brayford said, and he beats himself up every day.
Following Brayford’s comments, Sidhu apologized to the families of those killed and injured in the crash.
“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.
“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.”
— With files from Global News reporters Dave Giles and Ryan Kessler.