Semi driver in Humboldt crash facing 29 criminal charges

The site of the tragic Humboldt Broncos team bus crash became a memorial site in the weeks after the incident. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The driver of the semi-truck involved in the deadly April 6 Humboldt Broncos Bus crash has been arrested and faces 29 criminal charges, the RCMP announced Friday.

Jaskirat Sidhu, a 29-year-old from Calgary, is facing 16 charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.

The incident took place as the Broncos, a Junior A hockey team, was headed to a playoff game in Nipawin. The 16 people killed include head coach Darcy Haugan, and captain Logan Schaltz. Ten of the deaths were members of the team, with the remaining six including a broadcaster, team staff and the bus driver.

The charges were sworn Thursday. Sidhu was arrested without incident in his Calgary home. He is set to make a first appearance in provincial court sometime next week. The exact date and location of his appearance are not yet known. The Criminal Code defines dangerous operation of a motor vehicle as operating “a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic at that time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place.”

If convicted, Sidhu could face significant jail time. Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, while dangerous operation causing bodily harm carries up to 10 years.

During a press release held in Regina Friday and streamed live by the Regina Leader-Post, Superintendent Derek Williams, officer in charge of the major crime unit, gave few details as the matter is before the courts.

“There are significant and serious charges,” he said.

He refused to provide any details about the collision itself, apart from what was already known — that the bus was travelling north on Highway 35 and the semi-trailer unit west on Highway 335. There is a stop sign at the intersection on Highway 335, but Highway 35 is a thoroughfare, with traffic passing at speeds exceeding 100 km/h.

“It’s the circumstances … that led to the charges,” Williams said.

“There is a marked departure of the standard of care expected from a driver, in this case, a semi driver.”

Williams said families were informed in Saskatoon and Edmonton Friday morning that charges had been laid.

“We’ve looked at every aspect of the collision,” he said. “Our investigators were thorough in their systematic analysis of this evidence,” adding in response to a question, “there are no impaired driving charges.”

A core team of 20 investigators, supplemented by an additional 200 investigators assisted in the investigation. That included forensics, major crime and collision reconstruction units. Over 60 interviews were conducted, 6,000 photos taken and all documents analyzed. A reconstruction was done at the scene, and 3D modelling was completed using drones. The investigators were assisted by Transport Canada, the provincial coroner’s office and SGI.

Williams said he appreciated that the public wanted answers sooner, but an investigation this complex takes time.

“We can appreciate this is a mass casualty event,” he said. “A number of aspects had to be investigated. It takes time to gather all that evidence and facts.”

Everything gathered then had to be put to experts.

“The time it took to do this work — this important work — was necessary,” said Saskatchewan RCMP commanding officer, assistant commissioner Curtis Zablocki, who also declined to provide further details.

“We must protect the integrity of the evidence gathered and respect the judicial process as this matter is now before the courts.”