Friends and loved ones impacted by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last April poured into a makeshift courtroom in a Melfort, Sask., gymnasium Monday to share their grief with the court.
The sentencing of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu began with parents, billets, friends, girlfriends and siblings detailing the suffering the incident has caused on their lives and calling for stricter regulations for drivers in Canada.
St. Albert lost four former Raiders players in the crash that took 16 lives and injured 13 others. Logan Hunter, Jaxon Joseph, Conner Lukan and Stephen Wack were all killed in the collision between the team bus and Sidhu's semi-truck on April 6.
Lukan’s mother, Robin, was one of the few in court Monday who chose to read her statement aloud, detailing the last time she was able to hold her “handsome beautiful boy who prided himself on his appearance,” just days before the crash happened.
Lukan grew up in Slave Lake and moved away to stay with billet families at the age of 14 to live his dream of playing hockey. One of the years he spent in St. Albert with the Raiders.
“I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my body,” Robin said.
After the death of her son, the community of Slave Lake celebrated Lukan's life, with his best friend and brother Colby carrying his ashes in an urn.
Some 22 years earlier, the Lukan family suffered an eerily similar loss. Jamie Lukan, Conner’s uncle, passed away in a highway crash while driving to a hockey game. And just 12 days after Conner Lukan died, his grandmother passed away due to cardiac arrest.
Robin Lukan said her mother-in-law “died that day of a broken heart” and could not live with the pain again, after losing her son and now her grandson.
Robin described the pain her family went through after the accident. She said she doesn’t sleep and there are days where she hasn't been able to eat.
The family learned they had lost their son at around 11:30 p.m. the night of the accident. When they arrived to see Conner one last time, Colby dropped to his knees at the sight.
Robin’s statement was one of dozens read throughout the day, with many people reading their statements through their sobs.
Alan Wack, a St. Albert resident, read a statement on behalf of the Wack family and recalled the amazing young man his son, Stephen Wack, was.
He described his son, who was born in St. Albert, as an exceptional young man who was “naturally good at everything he tried.”
Stephen Wack was described as an “incredible big brother” to his younger brother Justin.
Justin was born blind but Allen said “it didn’t slow those two down.”
Justin Wack’s first laugh came from Stephen jumping on the bed, and in his youth Stephen told his parents he wanted to give Justin his eyes so he could see.
“To say their brotherly bond was beautiful would be an understatement,” Alan said.
Other families submitted impact statement describing the depression, anxiety and gaping holes in their hearts left by the crash.
The parents of Evan Thomas shared their statement as a letter to their late son.
“Everywhere we go, we miss you,” his father Scott Thomas said.
Sidhu cried through the much of the testimony, wiping his tears away with kleenex and looking toward the victims every time he was addressed.
Families who live in the area detailed the stress and anxiety that driving past the corner that the accident took place causes them. Other families, like the Thomas family, have decided to move because they cant bear to be in their home without their son any longer. Parents of those who survived detailed the anxiety, stress and depression that has plagued their sons since the incident.
Tom Straschnitzki, the father of Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down from the accident, told the court that their family had been living in a hotel since last summer, as their house was being renovated and modified so Ryan can get around.
The sentencing is slated to take between three and five days with 65 statements to be read out loud and 75 submitted in total.
Many of the statements called for changes to the trucking industry.
The Broncos bus crash claimed the lives of 16 people and injured 13 others. Four young men with ties to St. Albert died in the crash: Conner Lukan, Stephen Wack, Jaxon Joseph and Logan Hunter.
Joseph’s family is in Melfort and has submitted multiple victim impact statements that will be read later this week.