The driver of a semi-trailer in a crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus has been released on bail following his first court appearance Tuesday in Melfort, Sask.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, is charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.
While on bail, Sidhu will not be able to operate a motor vehicle, will have to stay in communication with RCMP and will have to give up his passport. Bail was posted at $1,000.
Crown and defence worked out the agreement to release before appearing in provincial court before Judge Inez Cardinal, who accepted it.
Sidhu was charged after the collision in April. The bus, carrying players, the coach and other personnel, had been heading to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask.
Scott Thomas, father of Evan, reacts to Jaskirat Singh Sidhu’s $1,000 consent release with conditions. <a href=”https://t.co/FYHMZa1JV7″>pic.twitter.com/FYHMZa1JV7</a>
Outside court, the father of Evan Thomas, one of the players who died, said it was important to be in the courtroom.
“I think I caught his eye once,” said Scott Thomas. “In case this goes to a plea bargain, at least he can put my face to it.”
He later said the moment made him feel an empty pit in his stomach.
“Part of me thought I’d feel anger but it wasn’t. It was just an empty void,” he said.
He said he wanted to represent the families who couldn’t attend the hearing so they’d “at least have a presence in the building.”
After talking to other parents, he said the court process is daunting.
“You think you park the ‘why?’ questions for awhile but now they’re right there. It’s like ‘why? Why did you go through that stop sign? Why were they at that intersection? Why was my son standing?'”
Scott Thomas, father of Humboldt Broncos player Evan Thomas, said it was important to attend the court appearance.(Kayle Neis/Canadian Press)
Ultimately, he wasn’t surprised Singh was released on bail.
“It was what we expected,” said Thomas. “The process is what it is.”
Russell Herold, whose son Adam died in the crash, didn’t go to court but said he was glad Sidhu had to surrender his passport.
A criminal defence lawyer said he’s not surprised that Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was granted bail.
In most cases, it’s up to prosecutors to prove whether the defendant should remain in custody. That means the accused is usually released by the Crown.
“This prevents unnecessary delays in court proceedings,” said defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle.
It’s also usual for Crown and defence lawyers to meet before court to avoid a bail hearing and come to an agreement.
A judge can deny bail if he or she believes the accused won’t attend court, if public safety is at risk or if other the circumstances of the case warrant denying bail.
“At least they put some conditions on it,” he said. “The bail seems low, but I guess if you go by the law — he doesn’t have a prior record and hasn’t tried to flee so I guess this is common.
“I’d prefer he be kept in jail, but we don’t have a choice in that.”
Herold and his wife are suing Sidhu, the trucking company and the bus’s manufacturer.
The statement of claim, filed at Regina’s Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday, alleges Sidhu did not have adequate training and failed to stop at the flashing stop sign at the rural intersection before colliding with the bus.
The suit further alleges the roof of the Broncos bus was not designed to withstand the crash and that it should have been equipped with seatbelts.
It asks for unspecified damages and a court order that all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan be equipped with seatbelts and other safety devices.
Last week, the RCMP said convictions for dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death can result in a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, while a conviction for injuring someone could land someone in prison for 10 years.
Sidhu was arrested in Calgary on Friday and was remanded into custody.
The crash occurred at a rural intersection 30 kilometres north of Tisdale. According to RCMP, the bus had the right of way, and the semi was in the intersection when the vehicles collided.
There is a flashing stop sign for drivers on Highway 335 at Highway 35 between Nipawin and Tisdale.
Sidhu had only been working for Calgary-based Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. for a month.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he made his way to Canada on a student visa in 2013 to study for a diploma in business administration at Calgary’s Bow Valley College.
Sidhu will make his next court appearance in August.
The bus was travelling northbound on Highway 35. The semi-trailer was coming from the east on Highway 335. The semi had a stop sign and the bus did not. The force of the collision sent both vehicles into the northwest corner of the crossing. (CBC )
With files from The Canadian Press, Creeden Martell