Too early to talk charges in fatal Humboldt Broncos bus crash, police say

Police in Saskatchewan say it's too early to say whether charges will be laid in the fatal crash involving a semi-truck and the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team that left 16 people dead.

Intersection where crash took place is closed Thursday for further investigation

Police have conducted about 50 interviews with eye witnesses, the driver of the truck and the owner of the trucking company, among others. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Police in Saskatchewan say it's too early to say whether charges will be laid in the fatal crash involving a semi-truck and the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team that left 16 people dead.

"It's too early to comment on any criminal involvement," RCMP assistant commissioner Curtis Zablocki said at a news conference Thursday.

He also said investigators are still looking into why the truck was in the intersection.

The team bus was travelling northbound on Highway 35. The truck was coming from the east on Highway 335. The semi had a stop sign and the bus did not. The force of the collision sent both vehicles into the northwest corner of the crossing. Visibility may have been an issue as the patch of trees partially blocks sightlines from the east and south. (CBC News)

The collision occurred April 6 at the intersection of Highways 335 and 35, between Tisdale and Nipawin, on a clear and sunny day. The semi was travelling west on Highway 335 and had a stop sign, while the bus was travelling on the busier highway.

Sukhmander Singh, who owns the trucking company, said his only other truck has been ordered off the road, pending the investigation. (Jason Warick/CBC)

The bus driver was killed in the collision, while the truck driver suffered minor injuries. 

Zablocki added it's still too early to determine if the truck had blown through the stop sign or if it might have stalled in the intersection.

He said the truck driver was immediately taken into custody and then released. The man, who has not been identified, remains in regular contact with the RCMP, he said. The driver's experience will be examined as part of the investigation.

More than 50 people have been interviewed as part of the investigation all together, including witnesses and the owner of the trucking company. More interviews are expected.

The driver has been interviewed by police, but Zablocki did not reveal details of what he told officers.

Ordered off the road

The truck belonged to Calgary-based Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. 

Sukhmander Singh, who owns the company, told CBC News he had given the driver two weeks of training. He said the man had been driving on his own for the company for two weeks before the crash happened. 

Singh said the driver is doing better.

Experts will re-enact the moments leading up to the collision with another truck and bus. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

"He's feeling good now and going to the doctor," said Singh, adding the driver is still in counselling.

Singh said he's effectively out of business because Alberta Transportation ordered the company to keep its only other truck off the road, pending the investigation. The move is standard when a company has been involved in a serious accident, the province has said.

"I'm just waiting for the investigation," said Singh.

The RCMP say a similarly weighted truck and bus are being used in Thursday's reconstruction. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

Intersection closed

Zablocki said the driver's logs have been seized by police, though it's unclear whether the logs are on paper or digital.

He said investigators will also look at the condition of both drivers, how much rest they'd had, when brakes were checked and other safety compliance measures. Both vehicles have been inspected.

In addition, the engine computers for both vehicles have been transported by RCMP to California to be analyzed.

On Thursday morning, police said the intersection where the collision occurred — Highways 335 and 35, between Nipawin and Tisdale — would be closed while collision analysts are on the scene for a second time. 

Their work will include re-enacting the moments leading up to the collision with another truck and bus. The crash itself will not be simulated. All roads leading to the intersection were to be detoured.

The RCMP say recreating the position of the truck and bus will help officers see what both drivers saw the day of the crash. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

Investigators have also collected evidence using 3D technology and drones, and more than 5,500 pictures have been taken. 

Sixteen people were killed in a collision between the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a semi-truck on April 6.

Six survivors were still in hospital, two in critical condition, in Saskatoon on Thursday, according to Saskatchewan Health Authority.

The collision occurred north of Tisdale when the bus, carrying the Broncos and staffers, was en route to Nipawin for a SJHL playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks.

Ten Broncos players died, as well as the coach, assistant coach, athletic therapist, the team's volunteer statistician, a play-by-play announcer and the bus driver.

With files from The Canadian Press