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Injured Humboldt Bronco player launches lawsuit against drivers in deadly crash


CALGARY — A hockey player paralyzed from the chest down in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has launched a lawsuit that names both drivers involved in the deadly collision.

Ryan Straschnitzki is seeking damages from the rookie truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the crash, the driver of the junior hockey team's bus, Glen Doerksen, who was killed in the crash, along with the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan and several others.

"This is a much bigger story than simply Mr. Sidhu travelling through a stop sign on April 6, 2018. And there's a story behind this as to why we had a number of fatalities and injuries of hockey players on that day," Straschnitzki's lawyer, Richard Edwards, told The Canadian Press Friday.

"That's the story I want to be able to tell on behalf of Ryan."

The Broncos were heading to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask., when Sidhu blew a stop sign at a rural intersection, and his semi truck barrelled into the path of the team's bus.

Sixteen people died and 13 others, including Straschnitzki, were injured.

The statement of claim says Straschnitzki was left paralyzed, suffers severe headaches and has cognitive difficulties, including short term memory loss, anxiety, nightmares and insomnia.

"The actions and/or emissions of all defendants were reprehensible, reckless, malicious, high-handed and demonstrated such a lack of disregard for the health, safety and rights of the Humboldt Broncos that the plaintiff hereby claims punitive damages," reads the claim, which was filed this week in both Calgary and Saskatoon.

The allegations have not been proven in court and statements of defence have not been filed.

Sidhu pleaded guilty to dangerous driving. During his sentencing hearing, court heard he was driving his truck between 86 and 96 km/h when he blew through the oversized stop sign with a flashing light. His lawyer said Sidhu was inexperienced and had been distracted by a flapping tarp on his load of peat moss.

The Crown said there was no way Doerksen could have avoided the collision. The transport truck was fully in the intersection across all lanes of traffic.

But the lawsuit claims Doerksen may have been speeding. Edwards said there were skid marks from the bus at the crash site, and RCMP estimated it was going between 97 and 110 km/h at the time of the collision.

The speed limit on the highway is 100 km/h.

"The one that we're getting a bit of criticism for is suing the estate of Glen Doerksen because he's dead, right. The question is how fast was that guy going?" the lawyer asked.

"I'm not saying Mr. Doerksen takes most of the blame, but ... there's a bigger story here than just someone blowing through the stop sign."

Edwards said it is clear Straschnitzki needs financial compensation due to the severity of his injuries.

"I don't at this stage know what Ryan's claim is worth. We know he's severely injured, we know it's going to impact him for the rest of his life," he said.

Edwards said the Alberta government is named for not regulating and enforcing rules for trucking companies. The company that owned the truck was based in Calgary.

The suit also claims Saskatchewan may not have kept the trees at the intersection cut back properly to maintain clear site lines.

Edwards read a brief statement on behalf of the Straschnitzki family.

"The family do not hold any ill will to any of the defendants. This is how our system works in Canada, and we look at comparative blameworthiness."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2020

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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