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Grief remains a year on from Hunter Valley bus tragedy

On the one-year anniversary of the Hunter Valley bus crash that killed 10 people, one grieving father has turned his attention to preventing a similar tragedy.

On the one-year anniversary of the Hunter Valley bus crash that killed 10 people, one grieving father has turned his attention to preventing a similar tragedy. Photo: AAP

A year on from Australia’s deadliest road accident in decades, Adam Bray is hell-bent on ensuring no one has to feel the same grief he has since losing his son.

Zach Bray was one of 10 people killed in the Hunter bus crash on June 11, 2023, with dozens more injured after their vehicle rolled near Greta on the way back from a wedding.

Bus driver Brett Andrew Button remains in custody after pleading guilty to 10 counts of dangerous driving causing death, nine of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm and 16 of furious driving causing bodily harm.

Prosecutors controversially withdrew 10 manslaughter charges when Button faced court in May in exchange for the guilty pleas to lesser charges.

While still dealing with the trauma of Zach’s death, Adam Bray’s attention quickly turned to prevention after hearing road and transport experts declare the crash was avoidable.

Stop Bus Tragedies, an advocacy group involving victim families, survivors and experts created to push state and federal governments for safety reforms, is Bray’s promise to his son.

“I don’t know where I found the strength to be honest, but I did hold my son’s hand … and I promised him I’d fix this,” Bray told AAP.

“The motivation behind that was to ensure this doesn’t happen to others, because if we can save one life, or one family from having to feel what we are enduring, that’s an achievement in itself.”

In the past year, the group has contributed to the NSW government’s Bus Industry Taskforce.

One report made recommendations including a state-wide campaign promoting the importance of wearing seatbelts and considering an 80km/h limit for buses with standing passengers, while a second called for technological improvements in vehicles.

A third report is in progress, focusing on psychometric measurements for drivers along with compulsory drug and alcohol testing.

Button was arrested after losing control of a bus carrying wedding guests from the Wandin Valley Estate to Singleton about 11.30pm on June 11.

He has previously been accused of taking a roundabout at Greta too fast while driving in thick fog.

The death toll of 10 was the highest for a road accident since 12 were killed in a bus rollover in Brisbane in 1994.

No formal events have been planned to commemorate the one-year anniversary, although Cessnock City Council has developed a memorial garden in honour of the victims that opened on the weekend.

Cessnock City Mayor Jay Suvaal said the grief still lingered across the community.

“In the aftermath of the tragic crash, our community banded together and displayed extraordinary unity … it was a testament to the strength of our community, as we leaned on each other for support during an unimaginable time,” he told AAP.

Premier Chris Minns said the people of NSW were with survivors and victim families and friends, and would be for the “painful years ahead”.

For Bray, who is a Manly local, the anniversary is “not a biggie”, and he planned to go for a surf at a spot where he used to spend time with Zach.

“There’s grief every day, but I’m learning to try to turn the sorrow, the tears, the pain that resides within, to happy, joyful, goofy, funny memories and embrace those as a higher percentage of the grief component,” he said.

Button is due back in court on June 13.

– AAP

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