MELFORT, Sask. — A Saskatchewan court heard Monday that a semi-truck driver barrelled through an oversized stop sign with a flashing red light before the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
An agreed statement of facts said Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was going between 86 and 96 km/h when he drove into a rural intersection north of Tisdale last April.
“The driver of the semi-tractor unit failed to recognize the hazard and took minimal or no action and effort to avoid the collision,” Crown prosecutor Thomas Healey said.
“The driver of the semi-tractor unit failed to recognize that his vehicle was approaching an intersection and did not stop as required. The actions of Mr. Sidhu while operating the semi-tractor unit caused the collision.”
Glen Doerksen, the driver of the Broncos junior hockey team bus, hit the brakes and the bus skidded for about 24 metres. It T-boned the truck at an impact of between 96 and 107 km/h.
Healey said there was no way Doerksen could have avoided the collision. The transport truck was fully in the intersection across all lanes of traffic.
“The driver of the bus recognized the hazard as quickly as possible,” Healey told court.
The statement said RCMP found no evidence that Sidhu had used drugs or alcohol or that he was distracted by a cellphone. The weather and road conditions were good.
The posted speed limit on both roads was 100 km/h.
Sixteen people were killed and 13 others on the bus were injured.
Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty earlier this month to 29 counts of dangerous driving. He was hauling a load of peat moss when his rig and the Broncos bus collided. He was not injured in the crash.
Five days have been set aside for his sentencing hearing in a makeshift courtroom in Melfort, Sask. An event centre is being used to accommodate all the families, survivors and media.
Justice Inez Cardinal reminded everyone to act appropriately in the courtroom during the emotional hearing.
“You might find the evidence a bit disturbing and it may be hard to contain your emotion, but, please, you must,” she said.
Bernadine Boulet of Lethbridge, Alta., struggled through tears as she stood up to give the first victim impact statement of 75 expected to be entered in court. She said the death of her 21-year-old son, Logan, has left a constant ache in her chest.
“I am constantly surrounded by reminders of Logan. Many of them make me smile and remember my amazing, teasing, kind son,” she said. “But often it’s the little things that are the most difficult and my chest aches, my throat constricts and tears fill my eyes.”
Boulet noted her son wanted to become a teacher, like both his parents. Now she won’t get to help him set up his first classroom.
“This crash has cheated us out of many things in our future. It has cheated Logan out of his future,” she said.
Boulet said she’d give anything to have her son come through the front door, flop on the couch and leave a dirty egg pan in the kitchen.
“I struggle with the fact Logan will not be coming home again.”
Toby Boulet said he’s trying to find peace in the consuming grief over his son. He also said he doesn’t think the truck driver is an evil person.
“I need to tell Mr. Sidhu that I do not believe that you got out of bed on the morning of April 6 to cause a crash, that he would ultimately kill our only son Logan,” he said.
“I believe he feels tremendous remorse with all of the fiber of his being … I believe Mr. Sidhu wishes he could start April 6 all over again. I want the same. We all want the same.
“But, Mr. Sidhu, I know that this cannot happen and our Logan is not coming home.”
A safety review done for the Saskatchewan government was released in December. It said sight lines at the intersection are a safety concern and recommended removing a stand of trees obstructing the view of drivers approaching from the south and east — the same directions the bus and semi-trailer were coming from when they collided.
The owner of the Calgary trucking company that hired Sidhu also faces eight counts related to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations in the months before the crash.
The Saskatchewan government has introduced mandatory training for semi-truck drivers which is to begin in March.