Truck driver to stand trial over space camp bus crash

A B-double truck driver has been committed for trial on 80 charges over a school bus crash.

A B-double truck driver has been committed for trial on 80 charges over a school bus crash. Photo: AAP

A truck driver will stand trial accused of ploughing into a school bus on its way to space camp, as a teacher burst into tears while reliving the experience.

Brett Russell, 61, faced two-day hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court where witnesses, including teachers, the bus driver and medical practitioners, were called to give evidence about the September 2022 crash.

He is charged with 80 offences, including dangerous driving causing serious injury and reckless conduct endangering life, after he allegedly rear-ended the Loreto College Ballarat bus.

The bus was on its way to Melbourne Airport to take the teens on the trip of a lifetime to NASA space camp in the US.

Russell is accused of ignoring signs that his B-double truck, towing two trailers, had lost braking capacity before the crash, about 3.16am on September 21.

The school bus rolled down an embankment off the Western Highway near Pentland Hills, west of Melbourne, with the bus driver and 31 students and teachers suffering injuries.

Three passengers were ejected from the bus and the rest were trapped in their seat belts, court documents alleged.

Russell’s lawyer questioned some of the passengers’ treating physicians and psychologists about the seriousness of their mental and physical injuries, during this week’s hearings.

Loreto College teacher Scott Antonio gave evidence remotely from Ballarat, after suffering soft tissue injuries to his neck and back, and psychological injuries.

He broke down and started crying as he described “constantly hearing voices” of the students, after barrister John Lavery asked him to explain if his nightmares and flashbacks were related to the collision.

“Mr Antonio, Mr Antonio … they’re not on the bus, we can’t find them all,” he told the court, describing the voices.

“What I see is … they’re dead.”

Magistrate Keiran Gilligan excused the teacher, as he said became too “visibly and uncontrollably upset” due to reliving the trauma.

Russell was asked to how he pleaded to all 80 charges, to which he replied “not guilty”.

Gilligan ruled there was enough evidence for a jury to convict him and ordered Russell to stand trial in the County Court.

The truckie, who remains on bail, will next face court on April 8.


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