(Reuters) – The driver who caused the deaths of 16 people on a rural Canadian road in Saskatchewan after crashing his truck into a bus transporting a junior hockey team was sentenced on Friday to eight years in prison, Canadian media reported.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty in January to 29 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or bodily harm, saying he did not want to make things worse by proceeding with a trial.
The prosecution had asked for 10 years. The defence had made no recommendation but cited cases whose sentences ranged from 18 months to four years, according to CBC News.
The Humboldt Broncos hockey team was on its way to a playoff game before the crash last April, which killed players, staff, a radio announcer and the bus driver. Sidhu, driving a load of peat moss, was not injured.
On Friday, at the hearing in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Judge Inez Cardinal read out nearly 100 victim impact statements, CBC News reporter Jason Warick posted on Twitter.
Along with the sentence, Sidhu’s driver’s license was also suspended.
In January, the judge heard numerous statements over four days from family members of deceased and injured players in a gymnasium chosen for the hearing to accommodate families, friends, lawyers and media. Some said they forgave Sidhu.
On Friday, Cardinal said there were no road or weather conditions that contributed to the crash, and drinking, speeding or cell phone use were also not factors.
There were no tyre marks due to braking left by the semi truck leading to the intersection, where the truck, but not the bus, was legally required to stop, according to an agreed statement of facts.
Cardinal said Sidhu had been driving up to 96 km (60 miles) per hour and, preoccupied with a flapping tarp behind him, had passed several signs indicating an intersection was coming up, including a flashing stop sign, according to Warick.
However, Cardinal noted that Sidhu had expressed “profound remorse,” Warick tweeted.
The victims were mourned last year in Humboldt, a farming town of 6,000, and across Canada, where junior hockey teams are a fixture of many rural communities.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; editing by Chris Reese)