MELFORT — The driver of the semi-truck that collided with the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus has pled guilty to all the charges he was facing.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary faced 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.
The plea was entered at Melfort Provincial Court Jan. 8.
“I asked him what his position was,” said Mark Brayford, Sidhu’s lawyer, “and 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’.
“He advised me, ‘I don’t want to make things any worse, I can’t make things any better and I certainly don’t want to make them worse by having a trial'.”
Brayford passed on a message from Sidhu to the families that were affected by the April 6 collision at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335.
“He wanted the families to know he’s devastated by the grief that he caused them and he is overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families of the players have expressed to him in spite the fact their grief was entirely his fault”, Brayford said. “He is very sorry about that.”
Crown lawyer Thomas Healey told the judge he might need up to five days for a sentencing hearing, which is set for Jan. 28. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years. It's 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed in the crash, told the Canadian Press she is worried the guilty plea will mean a lighter sentence.
"I'm glad he won't be putting everyone through a lengthy, exhaustive and heartbreaking trial," she said. "However, I also hope that by doing so, he doesn't get an absurdly reduced sentence as per our justice system."
Scott Thomas, the father of Evan Thomas, told the Canadian Press he's not worried about the time Sidhu could serve.
"When he said, 'Guilty,' to me, I have my closure," he said.
"If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years, 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 really doesn't. It is 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."