MELFORT — Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of a semi-truck who ran a stop sign, which resulted in an accident involving the Humboldt Broncos team bus, has been sentenced to eight years in jail.
For each of the 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death, Sidhu received a sentence of eight years in prison. For each of the 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, he received five years in prison. All of the sentences are concurrent – served at the same time.
He is also prohibited from operating a motor vehicle in Canada or owning a firearm for 10 years plus any time of imprisonment.
Judge Inez Cardinal said during the sentencing hearing held at Melfort's Kerry Vickar Centre March 22 that the April 6, 2018 collision, which killed 16 and injured 13, was avoidable and that Sidhu was solely responsible for this collision by missing key indicators of an upcoming intersection.
"I find Mr. Sidhu's moral blameworthiness to be high, especially considering his prolonged inattentiveness while operating a large, loaded semi and the tragic consequences that flowed from his actions," she said. "These offences require a strong message of deterrence and denunciation be sent to ensure Mr. Sidhu never operates a vehicle in such a dangerous manner, and that others – especially operators of large vehicles – understand that the dangerous operations of a motor vehicle will result in lengthy sentences of imprisonment."
"Somehow we must stop this carnage on our highways. It should not take an event such as this to make people realize that operating a motor vehicle requires the full attention of the driver."
Cardinal said she accepts that Sidhu is sincere in his remorse for the devastation his actions caused. She also pointed out he had no criminal record and a clean driving record before the event, nor were drugs, alcohol or use of a cell phone were involved in the collision.
The judge also acknowledged the 90 impact statement submitted to the court.
"I want all the victims and their families to know their feelings have been heard in these proceedings," she said
In court Jan. 31, crown prosecutor Thomas Healey recommended Sidhu receive a 10 year prison sentence.
"The sentence imposed today fits overall with the crown's submissions," Healey told media after the sentencing hearing. "The sentence holds Mr. Sidhu accountable for his criminal actions on April 6; however, we recognize there is no sentence that can return any of the victims or their families to where they were before this criminal act took place.
"The crown trusts that this sentence will send a very strong message to everyone using our highways. That message is that criminal driving will not be tolerated."
Sidhu is not a Canadian citizen, but a permanent resident. Permanent residents can be deported if they are convicted of a crime and serve more that six months in jail, or if they are convinced of a crime punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.
Raelene Herold, Adam Herold's mother, said the accident was so preventable and senseless.
"For us, our life doesn't change. Adam doesn't come back. It certainly isn't closure.
"We have a lifetime sentence. He gets six months for Adam's life," she said, dividing the eight-year sentence by 16.
In a statement, the Humboldt Broncos said they are pleased this legal matter has been resolved.
“This past year has been extremely difficult. 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,” said Humboldt Broncos president Jamie Brockman. “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.”
The City of Humboldt said it was commendable that Sidhu chose to plead guilty and spare everyone affected from reliving the events of April 6, 2018.
"This legal component of the tragedy is now closed and the City’s resilience and determination to move forward in a purposeful and positive direction will continue."