Driver faces court after tragedy

Minns said on the spot: “This was a terrible, terrible event in the history of NSW.”

“Whatever the final tribute… it will be more than we can bear.”

The PM told crash survivors: “Australia puts its arms around you.”

“It is so cruel and so sad and so unfair that a joyful day like this in a beautiful place ends with such horrible loss of life and injury,” Albanese said.

NSW Police sources, who are not authorized to speak publicly, said drug and alcohol tests showed the driver was sober. Passengers told them Button was said to have been driving erratically in the moments before the accident.

Police took the 58-year-old to the Cessnock station and charged him with ten counts of dangerous driving resulting in death – dangerous driving and negligent driving resulting in death.

Button remains in custody at Cessnock Police Station until Tuesday morning.

The bus was to be moved from the scene of the accident to a parking area overnight, where it would continue to be examined by accident investigators.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the cause of the accident may remain unknown for some time and the coroner will be involved in the investigation.

She said the coroner would investigate whether Button was responsible for ensuring passengers were buckled on the late-night bus.

“Ultimately, the driver is going to have to think about this for the rest of his life,” Webb said.

Webb said officers faced the “arduous task” of matching passengers to items on the bus.

“Whether or not they were actually wearing seat belts, or whether they were equipped with seat belts, all of that will certainly be under scrutiny,” she said.

The bus was finally righted again Monday afternoon, a necessary but “sensitive” step for officers trying to recover the bodies, Webb said.

“We have forensic officers examining the crime scene, we have officers from the accident investigation unit, we have emergency responders [on scene],” She said.


When emergency responders were first called to the scene late Sunday, they had to work their way through the Linq bus’s windshield to reach the survivors.

“It was quite a hectic scene, we were able to get several passengers out of the windshield of the bus,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Tracy Chapman said.

Wandin Estate winery posted a sign on its fence on Monday advising it was closed “out of respect”. In a statement, the venue expressed its “sincere condolences” to the families and friends of the victims.

“We support them in every way we can,” it said.

Linq Buslines said through a spokesman they were “incredibly saddened to learn of the bus accident that has occurred”.

“Our thoughts are with everyone involved in this terrible tragedy and we extend our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones,” the spokesman said, thanking the emergency services.

The small towns in the heart of the wine country were devastated by the crash.

New South Wales Police Minister Yasmin Catley said she struggled to understand the “unnecessary loss of life”.

“When you think about what would normally be a celebration like this, it can turn into something so devastating. One that these families and quite frankly this community will never forget.”

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Justin Scaccy

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