'We're looking for accountability': Father of Humboldt Bronco killed in crash hints at more civil action

One family has already filed suit against the driver of the semi-trailer that collided with the Broncos bus. More may follow, says Scott Thomas.

Scott Thomas cites Canadian Trucking Alliance, Alberta and Sask. governments as potential litigation targets

'We're looking or accountability,' said Scott Thomas, father of dead Humboldt Broncos team member Evan Thomas. (CBC)

The father of a dead Humboldt Broncos team member says other bereaved families, including his, are also considering civil action against the driver of the semi-trailer that collided with the Broncos bus.

"I would say that similar discussions have been had by our family," said Scott Thomas, whose son Evan died as a result of the crash last April.

"I think I'd be comfortable saying that there are discussions with the other parents too."

The comment came Tuesday, a day after Russell and Raelene Herold — the Montmartre, Sask., couple whose son Adam also died in the crash — filed a civil suit against the driver of the semi-trailer.

That man, 29-year-old Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.

Truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu walks out of provincial court after appearing for charges due to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Melfort, Sask., on Tuesday. (The Canadian Press)

The Herolds' suit alleges Sidhu was inadequately trained by his employer, Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd., and that Sidhu "intentionally, recklessly and/or negligently" drove the semi through the collision intersection near Tisdale, Sask., without regard for the corner's warning lights and stop sign. The bus had the right of way.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Sidhu was arrested and charged on Friday following a three-month investigation by the RCMP. He was released on bail Tuesday.  

Suit says company 'vicariously responsible'

The Herolds' suit names the trucking company as a co-defendant. The family says Adesh Deol is "vicariously responsible and accountable" because it allowed Sidhu "to drive a route that he had never travelled before."

The company that manufactured the Broncos team bus — cited by lawyer Kevin Mellor as "John Doe Bus Manufacturer Ltd." — is also named as a defendant.

"I was surprised to see that," said Jay Watson, a Saskatoon-based litigator.

"But if one can factually make the argument that the construction of the bus made the situation worse and was a proximate cause of death or the seriousness of the injury … that's a possible action."

This photo of the wreckage shows the roof dislodged from the top of the bus. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Herolds claim the roof of the bus — which came off in the crash — was defective and that the lack of seatbelts or safety harnesses on the bus compounded the effects of the accident.  

"As a result of the accident, the Humboldt Broncos were ejected from the bus and onto the highway and surrounding areas, causing 16 deaths and many physical and psychological injuries to the passengers," according to the statement of claim.

Thomas, speaking to CBC News Tuesday, suggested his family's own potential lawsuit could also name the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments.

Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. is registered with the Alberta government.

"We're probably going to have to go down that road. It's probably not just going to be the bus driver and the owner of the [trucking] company and the manufacturer of the bus," said Thomas.

The trucking alliance, he argues, "sanctioned the practice to allow a guy with a licence for two weeks to be on that road all by himself. And the government. The government had to sanction this too."

On Tuesday, the Canadian Trucking Alliance released a statement saying it hopes Sidhu's actions, and the findings of a carrier audit, lead to changes for "a small segment of the trucking industry that chooses not to adhere to safety regulations."

The alliance, which advocates for ongoing professional development within the trucking industry, also praised the Alberta government for announcing mandatory entry level training for commercial drivers and developing entry requirements for new commercial carriers.

'Anger, guilt, loneliness'

The Herolds are seeking damages for "past loss of income and future loss of income or, alternatively, a loss of capacity to work in the future in an amount to be proven at trial."

While the couple says their son Adam could have gone on to make about $20 million to $30 million over the course of an NHL career, exactly what "future loss income" they mean is unclear.

Mellor, their lawyer, was not available Tuesday to clarify details of the lawsuit.

The family is also seeking general damages for their pain and suffering.

Sixteen-year-old Adam Herold was the youngest passenger on the bus. His family has filed a civil action against Sidhu, and more families could follow suit, according to another parent who lost a loved one in the crash. (Prince Albert Raiders website)

"Russell and Raelene are not as productive and they suffer anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, worry and anxiety that is manifesting itself to be physically and mentally unhealthy for each parent," according to the statement of claim. 

The family is expected to release a statement Wednesday morning.

Watson, the Saskatoon-based civil litigator, says two things would need to happen before the Herolds receive damages for pain and suffering.

First, Sidhu would need to be convicted of his criminal charges. Then the Herolds' civil suit would need to prove that Sidhu intentionally caused harm to the people on the bus, said Watson.

That's harder to prove than driving under the influence, he added.

Jay Watson, a Saskatoon-based civil litigator, says he was surprised to see the manufacturer of the bus named as a defendant in the civil case. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"In a case of impaired driving or impaired driving causing death, there's no intent that needs to be found. But with respect to dangerous driving, there's an additional component. There has to be an intent."

No civil actions against Sidhu, the trucking company or anyone else would likely move ahead in court until after the criminal charges are resolved, said Watson.

"Mr. Sidhu is in jeopardy in the criminal matter. He would not be allowed to be questioned in a civil action until the criminal case is finished. I would be surprised if his lawyer would allow that to happen."

'Looking for accountability' 

Under Saskatchewan Government Insurance's no-fault program, survivors of road accidents who live in Saskatchewan are each eligible for medical and rehabilitation coverage up to $6.9 million over their lifetime.

"Depending on their circumstances, they will also have access to a number of other coverages — possibly income replacement, coverage to pay for a caregiver and a one-time payment for any permanent injuries," an SGI spokesperson said via email.

"The maximum amount for most coverages is increased every year in accordance with the consumer price index."

Members of the team ranged in age from 16 to 21. (Humboldt Broncos/Twitter)

SGI also provides benefits to people who lost loved ones in auto accidents.

"No-fault coverage provides death payments to a surviving spouse, dependants and in some cases grown children and parents of a Saskatchewan resident who has died as a result of a collision," the spokesperson said.

A GoFundMe campaign launched in the immediate aftermath of the crash raised over $15 million for the Broncos survivors and families. A court process recently began to determine how and when the money available will be divided.

Thomas said launching any civil action would be about "looking for accountability."

"We're looking to make sure that our sons, and [team athletic therapist] Dayna [Brons], didn't die in vain, and kids didn't get injured and the brain-injured boys aren't where they are for nothing.

"There has to be something that comes out of this."

  • The family's statement sent to the media. 
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  • The statement of claim filed by Russell and Raelene Herold
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About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

With files from Matthew Garand