Jaskirat Sidhu, the truck driver in the fatal Humboldt Broncos bus crash, apologized to the victims’ families when he spoke at his sentencing hearing on Thursday.

“I take full responsibility of what happened. It happened because of my lack of experience, and I’m so, so, so sorry for this.”

He placed his hand over his heart while he addressed the courtroom.

“I have taken the most valuable things of your life,” he said.

Sidhu and most of the courtroom wiped away tears as he described the night of the crash.

“I was on the side of the road with the side window above me,” he said. “I came out of the truck and I heard the kids crying.”

Crown asking for 10-year sentence

The Crown has asked Justice Inez Cardinal to sentence Sidhu to 10 years in prison.

Crown prosecutor Thomas Healey told court the judge will need to consider facts, statutes, similar cases and victim impact statements while determining the appropriate sentence for Sidhu. However, he said no other Canadian case comes close to this “horrific” and “catastrophic” crash.

Sidhu was driving the semi-truck that collided with the team’s bus on April 6, 2018 killing 16 people and injuring 13 others. He pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm on Jan. 8.

The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years. Dangerous driving causing bodily harm would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Healey spoke about how Sidhu sped through the intersection at Highway 35 and Highway 335, even though he “should have been able” to see a sign indicating the intersection was coming up half a kilometre before the crash. He added Sidhu had “ample time” to bring the semi to a complete stop and that he ignored several stop signs.

“I ask the court to stop and reflect on these facts for just a moment,” Healey said. “This isn’t just one sign, not two, not three, this was four signs he drove past. (He) completely ignored them. How does that happen?”

Healey went on to say Sidhu’s early guilty plea is a mitigating factor in the sentencing, along with his remorse following the crash. Sidhu also has a clean driving abstract and no criminal record.

But, Healey said, the number of victims is “horribly aggravating” and the consequences of the crash are “unparalleled.”

Healey is asking for a 10-year prison sentence, followed by a 10-year driving prohibition. He is also asking for the sentences to be served concurrently.

Healey said the Criminal Code changed in the months since the crash, increasing the maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death to life in prison. The penalty for dangerous driving causing bodily harm is now a maximum of 14 years. However Sidhu must be sentenced under the previous law, he said.

‘In way over his head’

Defence lawyer Glen Luther said Justice Inez Cardinal will need to determine how Sidhu’s criminal liability and negligence fits into the sentencing.

“He pled guilty because he feels guilty,” Luther said.

Sidhu’s lawyer Mark Brayford said the 90 victim impact statements presented to court helped Sidhu deal with what he did.

“As he sits there (in prison) and he will be sad,” Brayford said. “But, he won’t be sitting there thinking ‘woe is me.’ He will be thinking about the harm that he caused.”

Brayford told court about Sidhu’s history. The 30-year-old grew up in a small town in India, about the size of Melfort. He met his wife 10 years ago and they got married on Feb. 15, 2018.

Sidhu’s wife moved to Canada in 2013 and he followed her here, court heard. They have applied for Canadian citizenship, but it hasn’t gone through yet.

Brayford told court that Sidhu was managing a liquor store in August of 2017. He took a week of training before getting his trucking licence, but kept working at the liquor store because he couldn’t find a job. On March 17, he got a job with Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. Court heard he had worked there for three weeks — and on his third week was driving alone.

The day before the crash, court heard, Sidhu drove from Calgary to Saskatoon. He spent the night in Saskatoon after dropping off a load, and then headed to Carrot River.

Brayford said he asked Sidhu how he missed the stop signs at the intersection, and Sidhu told him it wasn’t “highway hypnosis.”

While driving to Carrot River from Saskatoon, Brayford said the tarp over the peat moss he was carrying started flapping. Sidhu was “inappropriately focused on the problem” with the tarps and the trailer.

Brayford pointed to Sidhu’s inexperience, saying he shouldn’t have been driving on his own on narrow winter roads.

“He was in way over his head,” Brayford told court.

Brayford added that Sidhu had no intention of driving through the stop sign. He didn’t realize the crash had happened until he got out of his truck.

“He had no idea he had gone through an intersection or what happened,” Brayford told court.

“He beats himself up every day. ‘Why did I not see the signs? Why did I not stop?’ The simple, unfortunate truth is, he didn’t.”

Court also heard that Sidhu will likely be subject to a removal order, since he isn’t a Canadian citizen.

The defence did not make a sentencing recommendation.

Cardinal has reserved her decision until March 22.

With files from The Canadian Press

CTV’s Ashley Field, Saron Fanel and Jill Macyshon are in Melfort.