Saskatoon

'I forgive you': Widow of Humboldt Broncos coach shows mercy to driver of deadly semi

The wife of beloved Humboldt Broncos coach Darcy Haugan was the first person to give a victim impact statement Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu in Melfort, Sask., offering him forgiveness.

Sentencing hearing continues for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, who pleaded guilty in deaths of 16 people

Christina Haugan, widow of coach Darcy Haugan who died in the Humboldt hockey team bus crash, arrives for the second day of a sentencing hearing for truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The widow of beloved Humboldt Broncos coach Darcy Haugan was the first person to give a victim impact statement Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu in Melfort, Sask.

"I forgive you," said Christina Haugan in court. "The injustice and sadness is still there, but I've been forgiven for things I have done. If you ever want to know more about Darcy, come ask me."

A highway crash between Sidhu's semi-trailer and the Humboldt Broncos team bus left 16 people dead and 13 injured. Haugan died in the crash.

Darcy Haugan, 42, was head coach of the Broncos for three years and mentored dozens of young players over the years. Haugan's "core covenant," which included treating teammates and co-workers with respect and being thankful for the opportunity to wear the Bronco jersey, has been painted on the walls of the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt.

Last year, he was awarded the NHL's Willie O'Ree award for positively impacting his community through the game of hockey.

Christina Haugan noted that Sidhu "had a weapon in his hands" when he held the steering wheel of the transport truck involved in the crash. She called Sidhu's actions extremely negligent and said there must be consequences.

"Mr. Sidhu, you had control that day," she told the courtroom.

CBC reporter Jason Warick is tweeting live from the sentencing hearing. On mobile? Click here.

Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, who lived in Humboldt but was from Peace River, Alta., was among those killed in the crash. He is survived by his wife Christine and their two sons. (Family photo)

Paul Jefferson, the billet parent of Broncos players Parker Tobin, who died in the crash, and Tyler Smith, who was seriously injured, also echoed Haugan's words of forgiveness. 

"When he pled guilty, it was easier for me to say, 'I forgive,'" he told reporters outside of court. "But I also know that grief is a journey, and I need to forgive to move on."

Jefferson said he believes Sidhu's remorse should be remembered by the court during sentencing.

"Some mercy is important," he said. "My request [is] that the court consider that his life not be ruined forever by this one terrible, terrible mistake."

Never forgive

But the mother of Jaxon Joseph, who died in the crash, said she will never forgive Sidhu.

"You broke my baby's neck and punctured both his lungs," Andrea Joseph told Sidhu. "Have you ever kissed a dead body before? It's so cold, delicate. We just wanted to warm him up."

Joseph said she left "desperate messages over and over" on Jaxon's phone after she heard about the crash.

Team captain Logan Schatz was among the players killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Canadian Press)

Then she got in her car and drove five hours to the hospital.

"Our baby boy needed us, dead or alive," she told the court.

Jaxon's father Chris said he took off his son's socks at the funeral home and has carried them in his own pants pocket ever since.

He took the socks out for Sidhu to see.

"I can't even smell him anymore," said Joseph, a former defenceman for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Phoenix Coyotes.

Andrea Joseph said she hopes a precedent is set with a harsh jail sentence to prevent more people from dying on Canada's roads.

"You broke him, and for this I will never forgive you."

"We are broken"

The family of deceased player Adam Herold told court their loss has been devastating.

"Losing my child is not something I'll get over," said his mother Raelene. "We are broken."

The family hasn't buried Adam's ashes. His father, Russ, said he sometimes places the urn in his lap and talks to it.

"You, sir, have taken the only sibling my daughter had," he said. "You have taken away her hero … you have also brought about the end of our family farm."

Earlier this month, Sidhu pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Jaxon Joseph was one of the players who died in the Humboldt bus crash. (Family photo)

During this week's hearing, dozens of friends and family members of the victims are expected to tell the court how the tragedy affected them.

The mother of team captain Logan Schatz, who died in the crash, said she is tortured by thoughts of the collision, and that grief has consumed her life.

"I'm still waiting for the pain to lift just a little," said Bonnie Schatz. "It was a cry that I never knew existed."

Russell Herold had hoped his son Adam would take over the family farm one day. (Russell and Raelene Herold)

She said she will never see her son become a father, and believes he would have been great.

"It's pain I would not wish on anyone," she said. "I'm thankful this part of the nightmare will be over."

According to an agreed statement of facts, Sidhu was found solely responsible for the crash.

A forensic collision report found Sidhu's semi-trailer didn't brake at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35 before the crash, despite numerous signs with flashing lights to warn drivers.

The report said Sidhu's view of the intersection was not impeded by any environmental factors like trees near the road or sun in his eyes.

Family and friends leave for lunch break on the first day Monday of the sentencing hearing in Melfort, Sask., for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, driver of the truck that struck the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team last April. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The Crown prosecutor would not comment on what sentence he is seeking for Sidhu.

The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years in prison. A law professor at the University of Saskatchewan said dangerous driving causing death has typically resulted in jail terms of between two and five years.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled to run until Friday.

With files from Bonnie Allen, Susan Ormiston, David Shield

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