CANBERRA, Australia(AP) By Dr Majid Khan – A bus driver has been charged after a devastating crash Sunday night in Australia’s wine country, where a bus carrying wedding guests overturned in fog. The incident killed 10 people and injured 25 others, making it the country’s deadliest road accident in nearly three decades, according to officials.
The driver, identified as Brett Button, has been in custody since the crash and is due to appear in court on Tuesday to face multiple charges of dangerous and careless driving, according to a police report.
The tragic incident is Australia’s deadliest road accident since 1994 when a bus overturned on a highway in Brisbane, killing 12 people and injuring 38.
The accident happened after 11:30 p.m. At a roundabout on the Wine Country Drive in the town of Greta in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, north of Sydney. The wedding guests were celebrating at Vanden State Winery and were on their way to their residence in Singleton when the crash happened, according to officials. One witness described the day as beautiful and the wedding as a fairytale.
A motorist who passed the crash site, identified only as Alison, described heavy fog that obstructed visibility, making it difficult to distinguish the colors of vehicles’ emergency lights.
Out of the 25 injured, one is in critical condition while the condition of the rest is said to be stable. The state government provided an update on the injured, noting that several are still hospitalized. Initially, police said 18 passengers escaped injury, but later clarified that only 36 people, including the driver, were on board the bus, leaving 10 dead and 25 injured. Among those taken to hospital, 18 passengers were the least seriously injured.
Police Commissioner Karen Webb explained that investigators have yet to determine the cause of the bus rollover and indicated that it could take time to reach a conclusion. The use of seat belts by passengers will also be investigated during the inspection.
Police spokesman Chapman said rescue workers had to break a front window to free people from the wreckage. Reports indicate that the bus involved in the accident belongs to Linq Buslines, which provides school bus and event charters. The company’s website claims that all its buses are equipped with seat belts.
Prime Minister Anthony Albany thanked first responders and announced the government’s support for the victims and their families, recognizing the lasting impact of the tragedy. Albany emphasized that the purpose of renting a bus for weddings is to ensure the safety of guests, making the incident even more devastating.
Cessnock Mayor Jay Sowall described the crash as “truly horrific” and expected it to have a profound impact on the wider community, as the Hunter Valley area is a popular destination for weddings and tourism.
Greta, where the accident happened, is in the heart of the Hunter Valley wine region, known for its picturesque vineyards and restaurants. The area has significance as Australia’s first established wine region.
The wedding took place over a long weekend, with Monday being declared a public holiday in most Australian states.