Semi-trailer driver pleads guilty in Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16

The man charged in a fatal highway crash between a semi-trailer truck and the Humboldt Broncos team bus has pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu made a brief appearance Tuesday morning in Saskatchewan provincial court in Melfort.

On April 6, 2018, Sidhu's truck collided with the Humboldt Broncos tour bus while the team was travelling to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask. Sixteen people died and 13 were injured in the crash.

Outside the court, Sidhu's lawyer read a prepared statement, saying his client feels terrible and is very sorry.

"His position to me was, 'I just want to plead guilty,'" said lawyer Mark Brayford. 

"Mr. Sidhu advised me, 'I don't want to make things any worse.'"

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu's lawyer Mark Brayford read a prepared statement outside Melfort provincial court. He said his client just wanted to 'plead guilty.' 1:10

Sentencing begins Jan. 28

The lawyer went on, stating that Sidhu is devastated by the grief he's caused the families.

"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."

Judge Inez Cardinal said sentencing is scheduled to begin Jan. 28 in Melfort and will likely take three to five days to complete, due to the number of victim impact statements expected to be entered. Security screenings will be in place for everyone entering the building.

Scott Thomas lost his son Evan in the highway crash between a semi-trailer and the Humboldt Broncos team bus. 0:25

Scott Thomas, father of crash victim and Humboldt Bronco player Evan Thomas, was relieved Sidhu pleaded guilty.

"It means a lot," he said. "To hear him use his own words to plead guilty was powerful."

Thomas has been present for many of Sidhu's court dates. On Tuesday, Thomas sat close to him in the courtroom.

"I felt him …, no question," he said. "To be that close, my heart rate went up for sure."

Thomas said he wasn't concerned about the length of Sidhu's sentence.

Heart-wrenching

"If he spends 10 years, [that] time is irrelevant. He was guilty, and he acknowledged that."

Thomas would also like to see a permanent memorial set up at the crash site. Since the collision, many people have lain wreaths and other memorials at the site.

"Whatever they build there will be impressive and heart-wrenching," he said.

"I think it's going to be a place where people stop for eternity, because it's hallowed ground. Sixteen people were wiped off the face of the earth."

In a statement, the Humboldt Broncos hockey team said it was relieved Sidhu pleaded guilty and there would be no trial. 

"I commend Mr. Sidhu for taking responsibility for his actions and sparing the survivors and the families the anguish and turmoil of rehashing this tragedy in court," said team president Jamie Brockman.

Rumble strips

The maximum punishment for the crimes is 14 years on each count of dangerous driving causing death and 10 years for each count of dangerous driving causing injury.

The crash occurred at the intersection of two busy highways. The Saskatchewan government has since pledged to install rumble strips, lights, signs and road markers in the area.

The accident made international headlines, and support for the junior hockey team poured in from around the world. A GoFundMe campaign raised $ 15 million that was eventually divided between victims and their families.

Sukhmander Singh, owner and director of Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. and Sidhu's employer at the time of the crash, faces eight counts of failing to comply with various safety and log-keeping regulations.

Sidhu, who was not hurt, was released on $ 1,000 bail in July under conditions that he not drive and that he surrender his passport.

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