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Humboldt Broncos families fight to keep Saskatchewan government named in lawsuit

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Regina -

Lawyers for several Humboldt Broncos families were in court Tuesday fighting a bid by the government of Saskatchewan to have it removed as a defendant in a lawsuit over the deadly bus crash in 2018.

The five hockey families are suing over the crash, alleging the province knew the rural intersection where the crash happened had problems with visibility but did nothing to fix it.

Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when an inexperienced truck driver went through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team's bus at the intersection near Tisdale, Sask.

The government and the truck driver want to have their names struck from the suit.

The suit also names the bus company and the Calgary-based company that employed the truck driver.

The trucker, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, was sentenced to eight years in prison for dangerous driving offences. Last week, the permanent resident was ordered to be deported to India.

"The government and Mr. Sidhu ... they wish the claim to be struck and for this trial to never occur," lawyer Kevin Mellor told court.

"The facts, as we know, are so brutal we understand why they don't want a trial. But it's our submission today that a trial needs to be heard."

Mellor represents the families of four players -- Jaxon Joseph, 20, of St. Albert, Alta.; Logan Hunter, 18, of St. Albert; Jacob Leicht, 19, of Humboldt, Sask.; and Adam Herold, 16, of Montmartre, Sask. -- and assistant coach Mark Cross, 27, of Strasbourg, Sask. They were all killed in the crash.

Mellor said it's unconstitutional for the government to try to bar the families from taking the action with all defendants to trial.

He told Court of King's Bench Justice Graeme Mitchell that the government hasn't even filed a statement of defence in the last six years.

In a previous court notice, the government asked to be struck from the suit because Saskatchewan has no-fault insurance. That means a person receives comprehensive benefits no matter who's responsible for a collision, but the right to sue for pain and suffering is limited.

Mellor said the government has been aware of the problematic intersection of highways 35 and 335 since 1997, when a family of six was killed in a crash there.

Eight months after the Broncos crash, a safety review of the intersection found a stand of trees obstructed the view of drivers. The trees were removed and rumble strips were added.

"If the government had simply designed and constructed and maintained the highway ... the bus would have stopped regardless of what Mr. Sidhu had done ... and the Broncos would have lived," Mellor said.

Lawyers for the province had not yet addressed the hearing, which was scheduled to run until Friday. The judge was expected to reserve his decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2024.

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