Truck Driver in Crash That Devastated a Hockey Team Is Sentenced to 8 Years.
OTTAWA — A truck driver whose inattention led to the deaths of 16 people aboard a youth hockey team bus in Saskatchewan last year, a collision that shook Canada, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Friday.
The defendant, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, drove a tractor-trailer laden with peat moss at about 60 miles an hour past five signs warning him to stop before the truck collided with a bus carrying the team, the Humboldt Broncos. Another 13 people were injured in the April crash, which occurred with such force that the bus flipped on its side and the two vehicles slid well off the highway before coming to a stop in a pile of rubble.
Many of the victims were young players who had come from across Western Canada to live with families in Humboldt, a farm town of about 6,000. They joined the Broncos with hopes of either advancing to a professional career or getting a college scholarship.
The loss of so many young lives was mourned by Canadians, and prompted an outpouring of donations from across the country for the survivors and families of the dead. Informal memorials, like leaving symbolic hockey sticks in front of homes, quickly appeared.
Mr. Sidhu had earlier pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving.
“Families have been torn apart because of the loss,” Judge Inez Cardinal said at the hearing in Melfort, Saskatchewan, after reviewing more than 100 statements from victims. “Somehow we must stop this carnage on our highways.”
Mr. Sidhu, who worked for a tiny trucking company in Alberta, was on his first solo trip about two weeks after qualifying as a truck driver.
There was no sign that he was impaired by drugs or alcohol on the night of crash, nor was he using his phone as he sped past the corner’s oversized stop sign and its flashing warning light. Nothing on the corner obstructed his view of the approaching bus, nor did he notice that an oncoming car had stopped for it.
The judge said that he appeared to have been distracted by a flapping tarp on one of the trailers.
“This was not a momentary loss of attention,” Judge Cardinal said. “He had ample time to stop his unit.”
She added: “Seconds matter, attention to the road matters.”
At an earlier hearing, prosecutors said that investigators had concluded that it was impossible for the driver of the team bus, who was among the victims, to have avoided slamming into Mr. Sidhu’s truck.
The sentence was less than the 10 years that prosecutors had sought, but it is longer than most dangerous-driving sentences in Canada. Mr. Sidhu, who is 30 and lives in Calgary, Alberta, will likely be deported to India after his release from prison.
“The sentence is subject to varying opinions, but what is important is that Mr. Sidhu pleaded guilty, has shown remorse and has remained accountable for his careless actions,” Jamie Brockman, the president of the Broncos, said in a statement.
Since the collision, Saskatchewan and Alberta introduced mandatory and more rigorous classroom and on-road training for heavy truck drivers. They also beefed up licensing tests.