Ten people returning from a “fairytale” wedding in the NSW Hunter Valley have been killed in a devastating bus crash. More than 10 others were injured when the bus reportedly rolled late on Sunday night.
A crime scene was declared on Monday and the 58-year-old driver was being assessed in hospital. Police were working to identify the families of the wedding guests.
“It was a nice day, pretty good wedding, fairytale stuff, then … we got the news there had been a crash and we all started panicking,” a man who said he had been at the wedding told the Seven Network.
Police were called to Wine Country Drive near Greta just after 11.30pm after reports that a coach had rolled. Several media outlets reported that guests had been at the Wandin Estate Winery in Lovedale before the crash .
Police said initial inquiries indicated 10 people had been killed, while 11 were taken to hospital via helicopter and road and 18 passengers were uninjured.
Emergency services were still on the scene early on Monday. The driver of the bus was taken to hospital for mandatory testing and assessment, police said.
NSW police said in a statement there was a “large-scale emergency response involving officers from Hunter Valley Police District, Police Rescue, Traffic and Highway Patrol, NSW Ambulance paramedics, NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Rural Fire Service, and various helicopters for hospital transports”.
“A crime scene has been established, which will be examined by specialist forensic police and the Crash Investigation Unit,” the statement said.
“An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash has commenced.”
The ABC said visibility in the area was bad due to fog.
The mayor of Cessnock city council, Jay Suvaal, said the crash had happened at a roundabout ramp and passed on his sympathies to the families of those involved.
“It does appear that it was a wedding chartered bus, coming from a wedding earlier that day,” he told the ABC.
“We’re a major tourist destination so I’m sure there are many people across the country that have done similar things. I’m sure they’ll send their love and well wishes to those involved.”
He said there was “a lot of fog around” but that the investigation into the crash’s cause was ongoing.
Paula Sinclair of NSW Ambulance told the network police were working to notify families of the wedding guests.
She said her thoughts went out to the affected families. She said her paramedics did a “fantastic job under the circumstances”.
“Whilst they are paramedics every day of their lives, something like this is not a job they go to every day,” she said.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the paramedics that attended, they did a fantastic job under the circumstances. No doubt they’ll be reflecting and we’ll make sure we have the right supports for them available as well.”
Anthony Albanese said on Twitter all Australians would send their deepest sympathy to the relatives of those involved, and thanked first responders for their work.
“For a day of joy to end in such devastating loss is cruel indeed,” the prime minister said.
The federal MP for Hunter, Dan Repacholi, said the crash was “absolutely devastating”.
“My heart really goes out to the families involved,” he said.
Suvaal said he had first seen reports of emergency services in the area in the middle of the night. It must have been “truly tragic” for the first responders, he said.
“[It happened] just off the Hunter Expressway [that goes] into the towns of Greta and Branxton, it’s a small community … the community there will be waking up to the shock of it all today.”
Suvaal said road diversions would remain in place while crash investigations were under way.
“There have been multiple helicopters attending and paramedics on site a well as a huge emergency response from police and traffic control making sure they could do what they could for the people involved,” he said.
– with Australian Associated Press
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