The driver of the semi-truck that collided into a hockey team bus in Canada last April, killing 16 people on board, pleaded guilty Tuesday to all charges against him.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu’s lawyer said that his client wanted to do the right thing by not dragging the victims’ families through a lengthy trial.
"His position to me was, 'I just want to plead guilty. I don't want you to plea bargain. I don't want a trial,'" attorney Mark Brayford said outside court. “Mr. Sidhu advised me: 'I don't want to make things any worse. I can't make things any better, but I certainly don't want to make them worse by having a trial.'"
Sidhu, 30, was driving a transport truck westbound on Highway 355 in rural Saskatchewan last spring when he collided with the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus, investigators said. The team was headed to a playoff game in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The crash killed 16 people and injured 13 more.
Sidhu pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years; it's 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Some of the victims’ families saw closure in the guilty omission.
"All I've ever told my kids is, speaking about accountability and responsibility and to hear him use his own words to plead guilty, it's powerful," Scott Thomas, whose 18-year-old son Evan died in the crash, said outside court.
“If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years, time is irrelevant. He was guilty. He acknowledged that. That's all I needed to hear,” Thomas continued. “The rest of the sentence doesn't matter to me. It really doesn't. It is not going to bring Evan back. I've got to spend the rest of my life with it. He's got to spend the rest of his life with it."
Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed in the crash, said she’s glad the families involved would avoid an “exhaustive and heartbreaking trial.” Still, she said she hoped “he doesn't get an absurdly reduced sentence as per our justice system."
Sidhu is set to return to court on Jan. 28 for sentencing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.