MELFORT, Saskatchewan — The driver whose transport truck crashed into a hockey team bus in Canada, killing 16 people, has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Thirteen others were injured when Jaskirat Singh Sidhu’s semitrailer loaded with peat moss collided with the Humboldt Broncos’ bus in rural Saskatchewan. Sidhu had pleaded guilty earlier this year to 29 counts of dangerous driving
The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Judge Inez Cardinal said Friday that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors, but added she had to consider the number of people who died or were severely injured and face lifelong challenges.
Sidhu’s truck ran through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus at an intersection last April.
Cardinal said the collision was avoidable.
“Mr. Sidhu had ample time to react … had he been paying attention,” she said. “Somehow we must stop this carnage on our highways.”
The prosecution wanted the 30-year-old Sidhu to be sent to prison for 10 years, while his lawyers said other cases suggested a range of 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.
Cardinal began her decision by reading aloud each victim’s name. She said the nearly 100 victim impact statements from families were staggering.
The judge said the hockey players who died were gifted athletes, while others on the bus were dreaming about families or had already started them.
“Families have been torn apart because of the loss,” Cardinal said. “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.”
Sidhu’s lawyers had said he was remorseful and is likely to face deportation to his home country of India after he serves time.
At a sentencing hearing in January, it was made known that Sidhu was going between 86 and 96 kph (53 and 60 mph) when he passed four signs warning him about the upcoming intersection and approached an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.
Prosecutor Thomas Healey said Sidhu should have seen the busy highway in front of him or a car that was stopped across the road and waiting for the Broncos’ bus to pass.
Healey described the semitrailer as a rocket that barreled into the intersection, which gave the bus driver no time to avoid the crash.
Defense lawyer Mark Brayford said Sidhu was hired by a small Calgary trucking company three weeks earlier. He had spent two weeks with another truck driver before heading out on his own for the first time.
Brayford suggested Sidhu was distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load of peat moss.