Truck driver involved in Humboldt hockey team crash pleads guilty to 29 counts

The driver of the truck involved in the fatal Humboldt bus crash last April pleaded guilty to all 29 counts related to it on Tuesday.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu made a brief appearance in a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, court and pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death, as well as 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. There will be no trial.

Sentencing will begin Jan 28. Sidhu faces maximum sentences of 14 years for dangerous driving causing death and 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Sidhu did not speak as he left the court, but his lawyer, Mark Brayford, read a prepared statement to reporters.

"I asked him what his position was," Brayford said. "And 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.' Mr. Sidhu advised me, 'I don't want to make things any worse. I can't make things any better, but I certainly won't want to make them worse by having a trial.'"

Brayford said Sidhu wanted people to know that he was "devastated" and he wanted the families impacted to know "he's devastated by the grief that he's caused them." Brayford added that Sidhu is "overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families and players have expressed to him, in spite of the fact that grief is entirely his fault."

On April 6, 2018, the Humboldt Broncos -- a junior hockey team of 16-to-21-year-olds -- were en route to a playoff game when their bus collided with Sidhu's truck, which was carrying peat moss. Sixteen people -- including 10 players and the team's head coach -- were killed and another 13 players were injured.

Sidhu, 29, was arrested in July at his home in Calgary following a lengthy investigation. Sidhu was not hurt in the crash.

The Broncos released a statement Tuesday, thanking Sidhu "for taking responsibility for his actions" and expressing relief at avoiding a trial.

"Mr. Sidhu's guilty pleas are a positive step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, the team and our community," Broncos president Jamie Brockman said. "I commend Mr. Sidhu for taking responsibility for his actions and sparing the survivors and the families the anguish and turmoil of rehashing this tragedy in court.

"I know Mr. Sidhu has also been deeply affected by this tragedy. His careless actions will haunt him for the rest of his life, and I'm sure it is a relief to move forward."

The tragedy reverberated across the hockey community and internationally. A GoFundMe account for the Humboldt team raised more than $15 million in less than two weeks, as more than 140,000 people donated from more than 80 countries. It is the second-largest GoFundMe campaign globally, trailing only the $21.5 million raised for the Time's Up legal defense fund. The money raised will be split among the 29 families affected.