School bus driver involved in horror crash at Bacchus Marsh praised for his selfless actions

The driver of a school bus that crashed down an embankment west of Melbourne has been praised for his selfless actions after the accident, as nine people remain in hospital.

About 3:20 am on Wednesday the bus, which was carrying dozens of students and staff from Loreto College Ballarat, collided with a B-double on the Western Freeway near Bacchus Marsh.

The students, mostly from years 9 to 12, were heading to the airport to begin an overseas trip.

Minutes before the crash, tow truck company owner Trevor Oliver was clearing debris from an earlier incident when he heard “three horrendous bangs”.

Mr Oliver was among those who assisted the injured after the bus came to rest 25 meters down an embankment in dark, challenging conditions.

He said the driver of the bus, operated by Little’s Coaches, did a “magnificent job” rendering assistance, despite suffering injuries.

“He refused to go to hospital until every girl had left that accident scene,” he told ABC Statewide Drive.

“It was like the captain of the ship going down.”

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Thirty-three people taken to hospital after school bus collides with truck

Mr Oliver also praised the bravery of the students and staff.

Two girls and the truck driver are in serious but stable conditions, with various upper and lower body injuries.

In total, nine patients remain in hospital, all in a stable condition.

This afternoon, three patients in the care of Ballarat Base Hospital were discharged.

Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital, and Sunshine Hospital are each caring for three patients.

Bus Association of Victoria director Chris Lowe told the ABC the driver of the bus had been released from hospital and would likely have some time off before returning to work.

the crushed cabin of a truck with a policeman standing nearby.
The truck driver remains in hospital with serious injuries.(ABC News)

Community rallies around school

Loreto College Ballarat principal Michelle Brodrick has thanked the public for their outpouring of support following the crash.

“I cannot thank Ballarat and the community enough. There has been a strong outpouring of help and text messages, flowers, lots of people reaching out to offer all the support they can,” Ms Brodrick said.

“When students are involved it does touch so many people. We know they are in everyone’s thoughts.”

A middle-aged woman wearing a dark blazer stands outside speaking at a lectern.
Michelle Brodrick says the school will be open today for people who need support.(ABC Ballarat: Lexie Jeuniewic)

The school will be open today, despite the national day of mourning, to allow students and families affected by the incident to access counseling.

Members of the Ballarat community, including politicians and councilors, have offered support to the college community.

Wendouree MP Juliana’s Addison’s daughter attends the school and said she wished students and teachers “all the best” as they recovered from the shocking event.

“As a former Loreto student and current parent, I know the strength of the Loreto community and that it will shine through during this difficult time,” she said in a statement.

“The Ballarat community will put our arms around our Loreto girls, teachers and their families and support them in all they need.”

The red brick fence and iron gate of the college.
The community is rallying around the school community.(ABC Ballarat: Laura Mayers)

Federal member for Ballarat Catherine King thanked emergency services and hospital staff.

“Tragedies like these have a ripple effect across the community and it is important that over the coming days and weeks, we come together and support each other during these difficult times,” she said in a statement.

Premier Daniel Andrews and City of Ballarat have also offered their support.

Seatbelts saved lives, say police

Police worked into the night at the crash scene, piecing together the circumstances surrounding the collision.

Yesterday Acting Sergeant Jason Templar said the earlier crash had slowed traffic on the highway and the truck had rear-ended the bus.

He praised the conduct of those aboard.

Luggage strewn on an embankment.
Anyone with information about the crash is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.(ABC News)

“They were all wearing seatbelts… which has probably saved having any fatalities from the bus, which is fantastic,” he said.

“I’ve got to say a number of injuries actually occurred as a result of their release from the seats because the bus was upside down.

“I’m incredibly grateful no one was killed.”

Grampians Health chief executive Dale Fraser said he was “incredibly grateful” for staff who worked past their regular shift times to provide care and comfort to the 16 people transferred to Ballarat Base Hospital.

A bus lying on its side at the bottom of a hill with debris strewn for meters.
The bus was forced through a guardrail and plunged 50 meters down an embankment.(ABC News)

Meanwhile, the Melbourne-bound lane of the Western Freeway has reopened between Ballan and Bacchus Marsh.

Speeds have been dropped to 40 kilometers an hour in the area, and drivers have been urged to be cautious.

The eastbound Bacchus Marsh Road exit ramp remains closed.

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