Former Humboldt Bronco files $13.5M lawsuit against bus driver, provinces

A former Humboldt Bronco hockey player has filed a $13.5-million lawsuit against those he accuses of being responsible for the 2018 bus crash that paralyzed him and killed 16 others.

Among those being sued by Ryan Alexander Straschnitzki is Glen Doerksen, the driver of the bus who died in the collision.

Straschnitzki, of Airdrie, Alta., alleges Doerksen was speeding at the time of the collision. Doerksen also “knew that he was approaching a major intersection at which there had been numerous fatal collisions in the past,” according to a statement of claim filed earlier this week.

On April 6, 2018, the hockey team left Humboldt, Sask., for a play-off game in Nipawin. Around 4:30 p.m., a transport truck carrying peat moss blew through a stop sign at Highway 335 and Highway 35, striking the bus and killing 16 including Doerksen. 

The truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidu, was found responsible and was sentenced to eight years in prison last year. The agreed statement of facts in his case said Sidu didn’t brake before the collision, and that he was solely responsible.

‘Dangerous history’

The lawsuit, first reported by the Calgary Herald, claims Doerksen was driving 119 km/h in a 100 km/h zone. It alleges he failed to slow down despite knowing he was approaching a “sight-restricted intersection” with a “dangerous history.”

None of the allegations in the statement of claim, filed Monday, has been proven in court. None of the defendants has filed statements of defence.

When Sidu was sentenced, the judge noted that, right before the collision, Doerksen “took evasive action and applied a hard brake. However, there was no way the bus driver could avoid the collision.”

Bus driver Glen Doerksen, left, who died the crash, is pictured with his son Cameron. (Cameron Doerksen/Facebook)

In the lawsuit, Straschnitzki seeks compensation for his “catastrophic” injuries, and for lost wages, plus punitive damages from Doerksen’s estate, Sidu and other parties.

He also named the companies that owned both vehicles as defendants — Charlie’s Charters Ltd. and Calgary-based Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd. — and the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The statement of claim alleges the governments failed to make roadways and trucking regulations adequately safe.

The lawsuit further alleges the governments failed in similar ways by leaving responsibility for transportation safety with the federal government.

It alleges Alberta failed to oversee truck driver training adequately, and that Saskatchewan failed to install rumble strips, warning signs and clear sight lines at the intersection.

At the time of the crash, training for truck drivers was optional outside of Ontario. Families and their supporters launched a petition to change that, and truck driver training was scheduled to become mandatory across the country this year.

Ongoing treatment

Straschnitzki previously told CBC News that before the crash, heard the bus driver say “whoa.” He said he saw a semi truck cross in front of the team’s bus.

He said he then blacked out, and woke up in pain, unable to move.

Since the crash, Straschnitzki has given many interviews about this rehabilitation efforts. The 20-year-old has said that he hopes to play competitive sledge hockey and regain the ability to walk.

Straschnitzki is paralyzed from the upper thoracic spine down, and says he suffers severe headaches, cognitive difficulties, insomnia and nightmares. (@straszr/Twitter)

In December, he returned from Thailand after undergoing experimental spinal surgery, and released video clips that showed him straightening a leg and kicking a ball.

Straschnitzki says in the lawsuit he expects “further medical complications and trouble in the years to come.”

In addition to being paralyzed from the upper thoracic spine down, he said he suffers severe headaches, cognitive difficulties, insomnia and nightmares, and severe driving anxiety, anger and depression.

Straschnitzki flips a puck before a sledge hockey scrimmage in Littleton, Colo., on Nov. 23, 2018. (Joe Mahoney/Canadian Press)

The deadly crash shook the nation, and Canadians donated $15 million to a fund which was split between the families of those who died and the survivors.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance also provided additional funds for medical and rehabilitation treatments.

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