Jaskirat Sidhu, the truck driver who pleaded guilty in causing the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, was sentenced to eight years in prison — the longest dangerous driving sentence ever in Canada for a case that didn’t involve alcohol.
Sidhu’s sentence was announced on Friday in a Saskatchewan court by Judge Inez Cardinal, who said: “Nothing can turn back the clock. The collision was avoidable.”
Cardinal added that the effects of the tragedy, which killed 16 people and injured 13 others, will “reverberate across Canada for years to come.”
On April 6, 2018, the Humboldt Broncos — a junior hockey team of players ages 16 to 21 — were en route to a playoff game when their bus collided with Sidhu’s truck, which was carrying peat moss. The 16 dead included 10 players as well as the team’s head coach.
“This past year has been extremely difficult,” Humboldt Broncos president Jamie Brockman said in a statement. “Having this legal matter settled and the sentencing complete is a big step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, our organization and the community of Humboldt and surrounding area. The sentence is subject to varying opinions but what is important is that Mr. Sidhu plead guilty, has shown remorse and has remained accountable for his careless actions.”
Earlier this month, Morgan Gobeil became the final Humboldt player to be released from the hospital. Only two surviving players — Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter — returned to the team this season. Even though the program was rebuilt after tryouts this past summer, the Broncos qualified for the 2019 playoffs.
On Monday, the Broncos played their first home playoff game since the deadly crash. The Broncos won 6-3 and currently lead their best-of-seven first-round series against the Estevan Bruins three games to one.
Sidhu, 30, was born in India and moved to Canada in 2013. He faced a maximum sentence of 14 years for dangerous driving causing death and 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Sidhu was arrested in July at his home in Calgary following a lengthy investigation. He was not hurt in the crash. Cardinal noted that she believed Sidhu had suffered psychological damage from the crash. She noted some mitigating factors in her sentencing, which included that Sidhu entered an early guilty plea (saving the families of victims from a lengthy trial) and that he had no previous criminal record, wasn’t using a cellphone and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the crash.
The judge noted, however, that Sidhu could have stopped his truck within 119.1 meters in a panic-braking situation and that he had “ample time to react as he approached the intersection” if he had been paying attention.
In January, Sidhu’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, said his client wanted the families impacted to know “he’s devastated by the grief that he’s caused them.” Brayford added that Sidhu 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 grief is entirely his fault.”
Previously, the longest dangerous driving sentence in Canada for a case that didn’t involve alcohol was given to 76-year-old Mohinder Singh Saini, a Quebec truck driver who didn’t slow down as he entered a construction zone in Ontario in 2015. Saini caused a crash that killed four people and injured 11. He received a six-year sentence.