A mother of a former Humboldt hockey player on Tuesday lashed out at the truck driver who caused the accident last year that killed her son and 15 others.
Andrea Joseph, whose 20-year-old son Jaxon died in the April 6 crash, told Jaskirat Singh Sidhu that he did not deserve forgiveness. Between gasps and tears, she looked directly at Mr. Sidhu and said she wanted him to see and feel the trauma he caused.
“I despise you for taking my baby away,” Ms. Joseph said as she delivered a victim-impact statement in a makeshift courtroom in Melfort, Sask. “You crushed my world.''
“You are an arrogant and inconsiderate monster with no regard for life or rules or laws.”
From the archives: What we know about the Humboldt bus crash victims
Mr. Sidhu, 30, has already pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Eighty-seven victim impact statements will be submitted as part of a sentence hearing that is expected to conclude on Thursday. The maximum penalty Mr. Sidhu could receive is 14 years.
A Saskatchewan government report filed in conjunction with Mr. Sidhu’s sentence hearing shows he had 51 violations of federal trucking regulations on driver’s hours and 19 violations of Saskatchewan trip inspection rules in the 11 days prior to the crash.
“You should not have been driving,” Ms. Joseph told him in her victim-impact statement.
She said she hopes Provincial Court Justice Inez Cardinal issues the harshest sentence possible to Mr. Sidhu, and with it sends a message that trucking safety regulations must be adhered to.
“When you are a mom and you can’t help your child and protect your child, the only thing you can do is fight for what’s right,” Ms. Joseph said later.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the semi-tractor-trailer that Mr. Sidhu was driving ran through a stop sign at intersection of Highways 35 and 335 and then collided with a bus carrying the Junior-A-level Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Investigators found no tire skid marks on the pavement to indicate Mr. Sidhu had applied the brakes, and estimated the speed at which he was travelling at 86 to 90 kilometres an hour. He passed two signs that warn motorists that a junction is ahead, as well as going through the stop sign that had a flashing red light affixed to its top.
Accident reconstruction experts said there was nothing the driver of the motor coach, Glen Doerksen, could have done to avoid the collision. Mr. Doerksen, 59, died in the crash.
The dead included 10 hockey players between the ages of 16 and 21, two coaches, an athletic therapist, a broadcaster, the bus driver and a high-school student on a job-shadowing assignment as a statistician. The other 13 passengers were injured, including two players who are paralyzed and another still hospitalized with a head injury.
The accident occurred as the bus was carrying the Broncos from Humboldt to a playoff game about two hours away in Nipawin. The carnage that occurred and interest in the case led to the sentence hearing being moved to a gymnasium in Melfort, a city of 5,000 more than an hour from Humboldt. More than 200 people attended the proceedings on Tuesday.
As victim-impact statements were read, parents, grandparents, siblings and billet families wept. A young woman in a group offering support to Mr. Sidhu rocked in her chair. At one point, Mr. Sidhu wiped away tears.
Bonnie Schatz, whose 20-year-old son was the team’s captain, recounted the horror of waiting for news with other parents, and said she will never forget their anguished cries.
“It was crying that I never knew existed," she said. “It hurt so much more and still does.”
“It felt like someone took a razor-sharp knife and cut into my chest,” a letter written by Shelby Hunter, the older sister of Humboldt player Logan Hunter, said.
Russell Herold, whose 16-year-old son Adam was the youngest on the team, spoke about his son’s funeral, held one day after what would have been Adam’s 17th birthday.
This summer, after taking a family trip to the lake they loved, Mr. Herold said he held an urn containing Adam’s ashes and showed him pictures from the excursion.
“I lost a piece of my heart,” he said, crying.
Chris Joseph, an Edmonton firefighter and former NHL player, said he has responded to numerous terrible accidents over the years. When he heard the Broncos' bus had been involved in one, he tried to call his son, Jaxon, numerous times. He said he began to get a sick feeling.
The Joseph family then mistakenly heard that their son had sustained a head injury and had been airlifted to the hospital in Saskatoon. They drove seven hours to get there. When they arrived, Chris and his daughter, Taylor, were brought into a room of one of the survivors. It wasn’t Jaxon.
It was only the next morning that they learned that he was among the players killed. He died from a broken neck. Both of his lungs had been punctured.
Chris Joseph said he went to a funeral home in Saskatoon that the medical examiner was using to store the bodies. There were only six viewing rooms and 14 victims, so families had to take turns.
“I knew right away,” Mr. Joseph said. “I knew it was the boy I love.”
Before he left, he took off Jaxon’s socks and carries them with him every day. “Like a baby blanket,” Mr. Joseph said.
His wife told Mr. Sidhu about the day they went into the room and saw Jaxon laying there, dead.
“We were looking in our son’s face and hoping he would open his eyes,” Andrea Joseph said. “I had never kissed a dead body before. Do you know what it feels like? It’s so cold but so delicate. We just wanted to warm him and bring him back to life.”