Humboldt Tragedy Truck Driver Sentenced to 8 Years
MELFORT - A truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash has been sentenced to eight years in prison by a Saskatchewan judge who said she believed his remorse was sincere, but she had to consider the serious consequences for so many people.
Tears began to flow almost as soon as Judge Inez Cardinal began her decision and continued afterwards as families sombrely gathered outside court.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary had pleaded guilty in January to 29 counts of dangerous driving for killing 16 people and injuring 13 others on the junior hockey team's bus. The 30-year-old stood quietly and looked at the judge as he was sentenced. His punishment includes a 10-year driving ban. He also faces deportation to his home country of India after he serves time.
"Families have been torn apart because of the loss," Cardinal told court in Melfort. "They are prone to depression, anxiety or outbursts." She also spoke of the survivors, who she suggested "are putting on a brave face in an attempt to be strong."
Marilyn Cross, whose son Mark was an assistant coach with the team, said seeing Sidhu go to prison for his death brings no comfort. "The sentence is neither here nor there for me. Our son isn't coming back. Nobody wins in this," she said.
Raylene Herold and her husband, Russell, were among some family members wearing Broncos jerseys in court. "For us, our life doesn't change. Adam doesn't come back," she said as she broke into tears. "We have a lifetime sentence." The 16-year-old, the youngest Bronco on the bus, was to take over the family farm one day. His father said the upcoming one-year anniversary of the April 6 crash will be another painful reminder of what they've lost. "We have emptiness, devastation.. There's an empty future there," he said.
Cardinal said the loss expressed in nearly 100 victim impact statements was staggering and she approached the sentence knowing "nothing can turn back the clock". She went on to note that Sidhu barrelled through a stop sign as he drove a "huge, heavy, deadly" semi and the accident could have been avoided. "Mr. Sidhu had ample time to react.. had he been paying attention," she said.
Cardinal began her decision by reading aloud each victim's name. She said the people on the bus that afternoon were "not defined just by their association with hockey. They were gifted athletes, community leaders, and team builders with hopes and dreams for the future... Some were dreaming of having a family, while others were already raising their families."
Cardinal said several factors, including his remorse and guilty plea, saved Sidhu from a maximum sentence of 14 years. But she pointed out he had missed several signs about the upcoming rural intersection and his lapse of attention had been prolonged. "This was not a momentary loss of attention. He had ample time to stop his unit. Mr. Sidhu wasn't speeding but his speed was excessive."
Court previously had heard that Sidhu was going between 86 and 96 km/h when he passed four signs warning him about the crossroads before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light. Defence lawyer Mark Brayford had told court Sidhu was distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load of peat moss.
Sidhu had been hired by a small Calgary trucking company three weeks before the crash. He spent two weeks with another trucker before heading out on his own for the first time just days before the crash.
The Crown wanted Sidhu to be sent to prison for 10 years, while the defence said other cases suggested a range of 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.
Sidhu said nothing as he was taken into custody, handcuffed and escorted by officers to a waiting SUV. His uncle from London, England, later gave a statement to reporters. "On behalf of my family, I would like to express my sincere sympathy to the 29 families," Chanan Singh Sidhu read. "We also feel indebted to the families and the Canadian public at large for the support, sympathy and understanding they have shown... for my nephew and our families."
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