On a clear and bright April afternoon, a semi-truck driver speeded past four warning signs, and an oversized stop sign, striking a bus with violent force.
The collision killed sixteen people, most of them 16 to 21-year-old members of the Humboldt Broncos junior ice hockey team. Two more were paralyzed, and another thirteen people were injured.
Semi-truck driver pleads guilty
This week, the semi-truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, entered a plea of guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death, and 13 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
On January 28, 2019, he will be sentenced in court.
“I’m glad he won’t be putting everyone through a lengthy, exhaustive and heartbreaking trial,” said one of the victims parents.
Mr. Singh’s lawyer stated his client told him “I don’t want to make things any worse. I can’t make things any better, but I certainly don’t want to make them worse by having a trial.’”
The owner of the trucking company also faces charges for to non-compliance with Canadian federal and provincial safety regulations.
Was inexperience the cause of the fatal truck crash?
An investigation by the Canadian police revealed that the bus was traveling about 60 mph, and the bus driver had tried to avoid the impending collision. The bus skidded nearly 80 feet.
Despite a lengthy investigation, and Mr. Singh’s recent guilty plea in court, no clear and direct cause has been identified. Many times I have seen this happen, as the truck driver does not want offensive facts becoming public.
At the time of the crash, visibility was clear. There was no ice or snow on the roads. The intersection was heavily marked.
The semi-truck driver did not test positive for drugs or alcohol, and there was no evidence that he had been using his cellphone.
The only thing that stands out to me is this: Mr. Singh had been driving for the trucking company for a mere two weeks.
Before that, he had two weeks of training.
While inexperience can certainly contribute to a crash, it doesn’t explain how a professional truck driver failed to see multiple warning signs, and a stop sign, and the bus itself.
To my mind, distraction is the only possible explanation.
The truck and bus crash is that killed so many of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team is the impetus behind a new mandatory training program for truck drivers in Alberta. Similar regulations will be coming to Saskatchewan next year, including at least 70 hours of truck driver training.
This tragic incident impacted the lives of thousands of people. For every life that is taken in a fatal crash, many more are changed forever. The victims are not only those who died, but their parents, siblings, partners, and their friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
Even if the semi-truck driver pleads guilty and spends decades in prison for his actions, he will never escape the guilt over the tremendous pain he caused. The driver who causes a fatal crash is often another victim of his own actions.
It’s a crash, not an “accident”
This truck crash, like so many others, was preventable – not inevitable.
That’s why we say “crash”, not “accident” … and you should, too.