Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos bus crash pleads guilty

By Aaron Schulze
January 8, 2019 - 9:42am Updated: January 8, 2019 - 12:42pm

Nearly six months after being released on bail, and multiple adjournments in between, Jaskirat Sidhu pleaded guilty to all 29 counts related to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April 2018.

Sidhu, the semi-truck driver involved with the Broncos crash, appeared in Melfort Provincial Court on Jan. 8, 2019 and gave up his right to a trial by voluntarily pleading guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death along with 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

Mark Brayford, a Saskatoon-based defence lawyer who took over the case from previous lawyer Satnam Aujla, said Sidhu’s position was he didn’t want to go through a plea bargain or trial prior to his guilty plea.

“Mr. Sidhu advised me ‘I don’t want to make things any worse. I can’t make things any better, but I certainly don’t want to make them worse by having a trial,’” Brayford said. “He is devastated. He wanted to let the families know that he is devastated by the grief that he has caused them. He is overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families and players have expressed to him, in spite of the fact that their grief is entirely his fault.”

Family members of athletic trainer Dayna Brons and players Nick Shumlanski and Evan Thomas were in attendance for Sidhu’s guilty plea. Scott Thomas, Evan’s father, sat one row in front of Sidhu in Melfort Provincial Court before his plea, and said afterwards he felt his presence.

“It was a powerful moment for sure,” Thomas said. “I felt him behind me, no question. To be that close, my heart went up for sure. I’m glad I had that opportunity to be that close to him to be honest.”

Thomas said family members of the victims in the crash spoke about their relief and what will happen next, moments after Sidhu’s guilty plea.

When asked what he thought an appropriate sentence for Sidhu should be, Thomas said all that mattered to him was Sidhu admitting he was responsible for the crash.

“Time is a funny thing,” Thomas said. “When he said ‘guilty’ to me I have my closure. If he spends a day [or] 10 years, time is irrelevant. He was guilty, he acknowledged that, that’s all I needed to hear.

“it’s not going to bring Evan back. I’ve got to spend the rest of my life with it, he’s got to spend the rest of his life with it. This is just my own personal feelings. It could be a day, I don’t care, he acknowledged he’s guilty, that’s all I needed to hear.”

Jamie Brockman, president of the Humboldt Broncos, sent out a statement shortly after Sidhu’s guilty plea.

“Mr. Sidhu’s guilty pleas are a positive step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, the team and our community. 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. I know Mr. Sidhu has also been deeply affected by this tragedy. His careless actions will haunt him for the rest of his life, and I’m sure it is a relief to move forward.”

Thomas Healey, Crown prosecutor for the Sidhu case, said the sentencing process could take upwards of five days. The sentence hearing will begin on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.

Judge Inez Cardinal said the Melfort Provincial Courtroom might be too small to hold the sentence hearing and a venue has not been determined.

with files from Angie Rolheiser.

 

aaron.schulze@jpbg.ca

On Twitter: @SchulzePANow

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