May 30, 2024

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Hunter Valley, Australia: Bus crash in wine region leaves multiple dead, police say




CNN
 — 

At least 10 wedding guests have been killed in a bus crash after the vehicle they had hired to transport them from the ceremony overturned in the Hunter Valley, a popular wine-growing region of Australia, as police charged the driver with multiple counts of dangerous driving.

The bus was traveling through a roundabout when it rolled near the New South Wales town of Greta, about two and a half hours northwest of Sydney, at about 11:30 p.m. local time Sunday, according to NSW police.

NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Tracy Chapman said 36 people were on the bus, including the 58-year-old driver, who was unhurt.

He was arrested and later charged with 10 counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and will appear in court on Tuesday, police said.

The remaining 25 passengers were taken to several hospitals in the region, and some had been discharged as of Monday afternoon.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the driver underwent mandatory testing for alcohol and drugs, and the cause of the crash may not be known for some time.

“It will require scientific examination, and that takes time,” she told reporters later Monday. “The most complex part of this job ahead of police now is actually accounting for the victims and the passengers on the bus.”

Part of the investigation will include if seatbelts were fitted to the bus and if they were worn at the time of the accident.

Emergency reports came in just before midnight, with police dispatching multiple helicopters, firefighting units and ambulances to the scene.

NSW Police’s Acting Assistant Commissioner Tracy Chapman said first responders smashed the front window of the bus to free some passengers who were trapped.

NSW state Premier Chris Minns said the bus had been carrying people returning from celebrations at a winery when it crashed.

He called the crash a “profoundly tragic event,” adding that residents of the region “will be shocked and saddened.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his condolences following the “horrific” crash.

“All Australians waking up to tragic news from the Hunter send our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those killed in this horrific bus tragedy,” Albanese said on Twitter. “For a day of joy to end in such devastating loss is cruel indeed. Our thoughts are also with those who have been injured.”

In a statement Monday, the wedding venue said it was supporting guests who need their help, adding that it wished to protect their privacy.

The Hunter region is popular for weekend getaways and weddings. The crash also took place on a long weekend, with many tourists likely in the region ahead of a national public holiday on Monday.