A Calgary transport truck driver faces 29 charges in connection with the deadly bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.
Police arrested Jaskirat Sidhu, 29, Friday morning from his Calgary home without incident, RCMP said. He faces 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.
Sihdu was remanded into custody and is expected to appear in a Saskatchewan court sometime next week.
The Humboldt Broncos team bus collided with a transport truck on April 6 while on its way to a game in Nipawin, Sask. The collision killed 16 people on the bus and injured 13 others. The truck driver was not injured.
Immediately following the collision, officers took the truck driver into custody, but he was later released. On June 12, the RCMP said it was talking with Crown prosecutors about potential charges.
The charges were laid after an exhaustive three-month investigation that involved dozens of investigators, 3D technology and approximately 6,000 photographs of the crash site, RCMP Superintendent Derek Williams told a press conference.
“We have looked at every aspect of the collision including the speed of the vehicles, point of impact, position of the vehicles, impairment, road and weather conditions, and witness evidence,” said Williams, who oversaw the investigation.
Police offered few details of what led them to lay the charges. Williams would not say what alleged behavior investigators believe was involved, but he noted that impaired driving is not among the charges.
“There (are) a number of elements that make up the offence of dangerous driving, including the marked departure from the standard of care expected from a driver, in this case a commercial truck driver,” he said.
“The factors leading up to that are evidence and facts that are going to be before the court.”
Among the evidence scrutinized in the investigation was a log book kept by the driver. Police would not clarify what was detailed in the book, but Williams said investigators “look at all the documentation to see what is recorded and what is not recorded.”
The Humboldt Broncos thanked police for their work on the investigation.
“Our organization has faith in the justice system and we will be watching closely as this court process plays out,” the team said in a statement.
“Our primary focus continues to be supporting the survivors, families and others that were directly impacted by the tragedy on April 6th.”
Families of the victims gathered in Saskatoon and Edmonton Friday morning to be briefed of the charges before they were made public.
Humboldt Broncos defenceman Ryan Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down by the crash. His mother Michelle Straschnitzki said the charges are “another step” in moving forward.
“That’s exactly what it is, and I won’t say closure because that’s not even close,” she told CTV News.
Bernadine Boulet’s son Logan died in the crash. She said the 29 charges – one for each victim injured or killed – was the right approach.
“This gives individual faces to each victim and that they are not just part of two groups of faceless people,” Boulet said.
Each of the 16 charges of dangerous driving causing death could lead to a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, and the 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm carry up to 10 years each.
Even so, University of Alberta law professor Peter Sankoff says proving criminal negligence can be difficult for prosecutors.
“It’s always difficult to prove dangerous driving in a situation where you essentially have a collision that results from a single error,” Sankoff told CTV Edmonton.
Barret Kropf, a friend of Humboldt Broncos coach Darcy Haugen who died in the crash, said the arrest is going to mean “a really emotional day” for family members.
“For Darcy’s boys, I think every day that they step away from April 6 it just gets harder. There’s just so many trigger points,” Kropt told CTV News Channel following the RCMP announcement. “There’s going to be a lot of milestones that are just going to be really hard for them.”
Kropf said police need to be applauded for the months of work they’ve put into the investigation.
“This is something you need to get right. It’s not something you can just push through,” he said. “They’ve done what the country needs, what the team needs to continue taking those steps to healing. They’ll never be fully healed.”
Trucking company not police focus
The Calgary-based company that owned the truck, Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd., began operation in the fall of 2017 and had two trucks on the road at the time of the collision. The other truck was temporarily taken out of service while Alberta Transportation investigated the incident.
The company did not have any prior collisions or violations before the Humboldt Broncos crash.
The truck company was not a focus of the police investigation, Williams confirmed.
The company’s owner, Sukhmander Singh, previously told The Canadian Press that the driver had been working for him for about a month and had the proper driving credentials.
Since the collision, a GoFundMe in support of the team has raised millions of dollars and is now in the process of being distributed to those impacted.
“I think it’s something that the community and the families have been waiting for,” said Rob Muench, mayor of Humboldt, Sask. “It’s good to see that something has come of the investigation.”
In June, the Broncos were honoured at the NHL Awards and former head coach Darcy Haugan, who died in the crash, was posthumously given the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.
“Those players have been through a lot and I think that itself helped the situation for them,” Muench said.
Earlier this week, the Broncos announced Nathan Oystrick would be their new head coach.