Horror bus crash driver weeps after getting bail

The driver of a bus which police say was going “too quick” before it rolled and killed 10 passengers returning from a NSW wedding has been granted bail after facing court charged with 10 counts of dangerous driving.

Jun 13, 2023, updated Jun 13, 2023
Bus driver Brett Andrew Button leaves the Cessnock Police Station after being bailed. Photo: AAP/Luke Costin

Bus driver Brett Andrew Button leaves the Cessnock Police Station after being bailed. Photo: AAP/Luke Costin

Brett Andrew Button, 58, is accused of driving dangerously fast in fog through a roundabout moments before his bus tipped over and crashed into a guard rail near Greta in the NSW Hunter Valley on Sunday night.

Nine of the 35 passengers died at the scene, while a 10th died a short time later on the way to hospital. Another 14 crash victims remain in hospitals across the Hunter Valley and Sydney, including two in intensive care at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.

Photo: AAP/Darren Pateman

Button sat with his head bowed during a short bail hearing in Cessnock Local Court on Tuesday.

While the statements of 10 passengers about Button’s “prolonged behaviour” before the crash made for a strong prosecution case, magistrate Robyn Richardson agreed his family ties and bail conditions could reduce his risk of fleeing the country or interfering with witnesses.

It was clear Button was suffering along with the rest of the community, which was devastated by the crash, and there were concerns for the driver’s wellbeing, she said.

Button wept after the magistrate granted him bail despite strong police opposition.

Besides 10 counts of dangerous driving occasioning death, Button could expect to face further charges over injuries caused to survivors, a prosecutor told the court.

The case was adjourned to August 9.

Before Button fronted court, Acting Assistant Commissioner David Waddell said police believed Button was “driving in a manner that was inconsistent with the conditions”.

“Obviously, the speed was too quick to negotiate that roundabout, causing the vehicle to fall on its side,” he said.

The guard rail on Wine Country Drive near Greta was a major factor in the severity of the crash and the scene was very confronting for first responders, Waddell said.

“It was a very chaotic scene,” he said.

Button was taken to hospital for mandatory testing but was released into police custody, where he remained ahead of his court appearance.

Police were still working to contact all families of those killed in the crash, who are spread across regional NSW, Melbourne and Queensland.

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The victims are aged from their 20s to their 60s.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said trauma counselling centres would open in Singleton and Branxton to help anyone affected by the tragedy.

“It’s available for the community to come and get trauma counselling and speak to health professionals if they need to,” he said.

“Everybody in the state has been really traumatised by these terrible events,” he said.

“It’s the government’s responsibility and the local council’s responsibility to be there for them not just in the immediate glare of the accident but in the weeks and months to come.”

Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Tracy Chapman on Monday said emergency responders smashed the front windscreen of the bus in order to pull people from the wreckage.

The crash was a tragic end to the fairytale wedding of Mitchell Gaffney and Madeleine Edsell, both members of local sporting club the Singleton Roosters.

The Warrandyte Cricket Club in Victoria, where Gaffney previously lived, said a number of its members were involved in the crash.

Police have begun taking witness statements from survivors.

“They’re providing a version of, or witness statement in terms of what they experienced and that will assist us with our inquiries and furthering that investigation,” Chapman said.

Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the use of seatbelts would be one of the matters looked at by the coroner.

“Whether they were actually wearing seatbelts or not … certainly all of that will come under scrutiny,” she said.

“Again that will be a matter the coroner will have a look and ultimately the driver will have to think about that for the rest of his life.”

-with AAP

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