The man charged in a fatal highway crash that killed 16 people from the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team last April has pleaded guilty to all charges against him.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 14 counts of dangerous driving causing injury. He faces a maximum of 14 years for each count of the first charge and 10 years for each count of the second.
Sidhu’s truck collided with the Humboldt Broncos tour bus in rural Saskatchewan while the team was travelling to play a junior hockey league game, killing 16 people and injuring 13.
“His position to me was, “I just want to plead guilty,” his lawyer Mark Brayford told reporters outside the courthouse.
“He’s 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,” he continued.
“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.’”
The sentencing will begin on January 28 and will likely take several days, given the number of victim impact statements expected to be read in court.
Some families of victims spoke out to say they were relieved that Sidhu pleaded guilty.
“When he said ‘Guilty’, to me, I have my closure. If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years, time is irrelevant. He was guilty,” Scott Thomas, father of 18-year-old Evan, who died in the crash, told The Guardian.
“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.”
Others, however, expressed concern that a guilty plea could mean a lighter sentence for Sidhu.
“I’m glad he won’t be putting everyone through a lengthy, exhaustive and heartbreaking trial,” Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed in the collision, told the Guardian. “However, I also hope that by doing so, he doesn’t get an absurdly reduced sentence as per our justice system.”
The April tragedy made international headlines and a GoFundMe campaign raised $15 million that was split between the victims’ families.
Cover image: Jaskirat Singh Sidhu leaves provincial court with his lawyer Mark Brayford (right) in Melfort, Sask., Tuesday, January, 8, 2019. Sidhu, the driver of a transport truck involved in a deadly crash with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team's bus, has pleaded guilty to all charges against him. (Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press)