The truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash says he takes full responsibility for the collision that killed 16 people and injured 13 others.
“It happened because of my lack of experience and I’m so, so, so, so sorry,” Jaskirat Singh Sidhu said as he stood and faced the victims’ families in a Melfort, Saskatchewan, courtroom on Thursday.
Sidhu told the families he can’t imagine what they are going through and realizes he took ”the most valuable things of your life.”
The judge said she will hand down her sentence on March 22.
Sidhu’s defence lawyers made no recommendation as to what the sentence should be for their client, but cited other dangerous driving cases that led to sentences ranging from 1 1/2 and 4 1/2 years behind bars.
Crown prosecutor Thomas Healey suggested 10 years and referenced a case that had a sentence of six years.
Sidhu faces a maximum sentence of 14 years for dangerous driving causing death and 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The Crown is also asking for the maximum driving prohibition of 10 years.
Healey said Sidhu was travelling between 86 and 96 km/hr when he passed four signs warning about the upcoming intersection before he came across an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.
“Mr. Sidhu had more than enough time to bring the semi to a complete stop,” said Healey.
He said Sidhu should have seen the busy highway coming up right in front of him or a car stopped across the road that was waiting for the Broncos bus to pass.
“How do you miss that?” It’s just astounding,” Healey said. “All he had to do was stop. That’s all.”
Healey said it wasn’t a case of rolling through a stop sign.
“This was more like a rocket,” he said. ”There was no where for the bus driver, Glen Doerksen, to go …. He tried. He did all he could do.
“This wasn’t just an accident. This was a crime.”
Several family members of the victims have said their one big question is why?
Sidhu’s lawyer Mark Brayford told court Thursday that he couldn’t given them an answer.
“I’m disappointed to say that I can’t tell people what happened,” he said. ”He simply doesn’t know.”
“He beats himself up everyday. ‘Why didn’t I see the signs? Why didn’t I stop?’”
Brayford said his client was having trouble with the tarps on his load and he was inappropriately focused on that problem.
“His attention was on his two mirrors. I suggest a classic case of his inexperience working against them,” he said. “That’s his responsibility.”
He said there’s no evidence Sidhu deliberately chose to blow through the intersection, otherwise he would have been charged with criminal negligence.
Brayford added that any sentence over six months will likely mean his client is deported, because he is not a Canadian citizen.
Earlier Thursday, the Crown prosecutor told court that the Criminal Code was changed months after the crash to increase the maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death to life in prison and to a maximum 14 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
But he noted that Sidhu must be sentenced under the previous law.
Chris Purdy and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press