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Despite sentencing, the pain still lingers for Humboldt families

The truck driver in the tragedy that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos was sentenced to eight years in prison on Friday, but that doesn't change the sense of loss for the families of the victims.

The families of the 16 people killed in the worst tragedy in Canadian sports history had to relive their pain on Friday as the man responsible for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash was sentenced to eight years in prison. It was in the same courtroom in Melfort, Sask., where they replayed the tragedy when they gave their victim impact statements two months ago. And in 15 days, which will mark the first anniversary of the crash, they’ll have to do it all over again.

Some of the families were on hand for the sentencing of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu in a Melfort, Sask., courtroom by Justice Inez Cardinal. Former NHLer Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon died in the crash, was present for the sentencing and, while praising the judge and prosecutors for their work, was disappointed with the sentence. That’s largely because there was no sentence that was going to appease him.

“I think I had it in my mind that I was going to be disappointed no matter what,” Joseph said. “There isn’t a number that’s going to make it OK. Although eight years is a significant number, it doesn’t make it OK in our mind. But (Judge Cardinal) was very firm, but she was also very professional and very understanding. I think we got as good as we were going to get from any of the judges.”

It’s impossible to imagine a parent having a more difficult 12 months than Joseph and the parents and families of the others killed in the accident have had. But now that the sentence has been handed down, Joseph said the movement to press lawmakers to regulate the trucking industry and make seatbelts on buses mandatory continues.

“Maybe now we can put a little more energy into that,” Joseph said. “We still have energy. That’s really all we have. We don’t have Jaxon anymore. We want to make the roads safer for the next hockey team and the next school bus, so now we can give a little more energy to that. It’s an opportunity for us to make some positive change, so we’re not taking that lightly.”

Sidhu actually received an eight-year sentence for each of the 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and five years for each of the 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, but they are going to be served concurrently. The judge said the fact that Sidhu took ownership of his actions and showed remorse was part of her reasoning in not imposing the maximum sentence of 14 years. There’s also a very good chance that Sidhu will be deported to his native India after he serves his sentence.

“Having this legal matter settled and the sentencing complete is a big step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, our organization and the community of Humboldt and surrounding area,” Broncos president Jamie Brockman said in a statement. “The sentence is subject to varying opinions but what is important is that Mr. Sidhu plead guilty, has shown remorse and has remained accountable for his careless actions.”

Meanwhile, Chris Joseph and the other families are preparing to reunite in Humboldt on April 5, 6 and 7 to mark the one year that has passed since the tragedy. Joseph said that aside from visiting the crash site, he isn’t sure what events are planned, “I just know we're going to be there. I can’t think of anywhere else we’d want to be on that date, so that’s where we’ll be.”

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