Bacchus Marsh school bus crash: students saved wearing seatbelts, bus association says

How one smart decision saved the lives of 27 schoolgirls when a truck crashed into their bus on the way to a trip of a lifetime to NASA

  • 27 students were headed for the US when their bus was hit and rolled of the road
  • The horrific crash, in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, could have been fatal, said police
  • Authorities have said the schoolgirls’ lives were saved by a single good decision

Twenty-seven young schoolgirls and four adults en route to a US ‘space camp’ could have died pinned under their upturned bus were it not for one key decision.

Students from Loreto College, Ballarat, were travelling along Victoria’s Western Highway in the early hours of Wednesday morning when their bus slowed to avoid a crash and was hit by a B-double truck.

The Bus Association of Victoria believes seatbelts played a major role in saving the lives of those on board.

Precisely how many passengers were wearing seatbelts is unclear, but the association confirmed most passengers were wearing them.

‘It looks as if there were some who weren’t, but it was a seatbelted coach and the majority were wearing them,’ executive director Chris Lowe told The Guardian.

‘The whole circumstance could have been a lot worse if it was not seatbelted.’

The school bus, carrying 27 students and four teachers, rolled 50m after it and a truck collided in the confusion of a previous truck crash (pictured, emergency services at the scene)

The school bus, carrying 27 students and four teachers, rolled 50m after it and a truck collided in the confusion of a previous truck crash (pictured, emergency services at the scene)

The students were headed for Melbourne Airport for a school trip to the US when their bus rolled down the 50m embankment about 3.20am.

Loreto College is staying open to students, parents and teachers on Thursday’s Day of Mourning public holiday so they can access counselling.

First responders were confronted by a devastating scene as they helped students from years nine to 11 trapped in the bus under in pitch black and troubling weather.

Police said it was ‘miraculous’ all those on board were able to pull themselves from the wreckage and survived the crash.

‘Quite miraculously, they’ve self-evacuated and other people, I believe truck drivers and that, stopped to assist them,’ Detective Inspector Roger Schranz said.

‘I would have assumed someone would have passed away out of this entire tragedy. So they’re all very fortunate people.’

Police are still investigating the collision between a school bus and truck (pictured) on Wednesday and asked for anyone with relevant information to contact Crime Stoppers

Police are still investigating the collision between a school bus and truck (pictured) on Wednesday and asked for anyone with relevant information to contact Crime Stoppers

 Victoria Police Acting Superintendent Jason Templar told reporters the event was ‘fairly harrowing’ for everyone involved.

‘How anyone wasn’t more seriously injured is incredible,’ he said.

Three of the teenagers flown to the Royal Children’s hospital remain in serious but stable conditions. 

A woman in her 40s and a man in his 50s remain in Royal Melbourne Hospital in a stable condition.

All others on board were taken to various hospitals for observation on Wednesday. 

Emergency services immediately rushed to the scene on Wednesday morning to find the schoolbus on its side and students pulling themselves from the wreckage

Emergency services immediately rushed to the scene on Wednesday morning to find the schoolbus on its side and students pulling themselves from the wreckage 

Executive director of the BAV, Chris Lowe (pictured left) said most students had been wearing seabelts on the bus, a decision which may have saved many lives, as police were relieved to find there had been no casualties on scene

Executive director of the BAV, Chris Lowe (pictured left) said most students had been wearing seabelts on the bus, a decision which may have saved many lives, as police were relieved to find there had been no casualties on scene

Kangaroo Transport Industries chief executive Steve Buck said the 60-year-old driver was a sub-contractor ‘who has been safely driving road trains for more than 30 years’ and needed surgery after being trapped in the cab.

Speed limits at the time of crash were reduced following a collision the previous night.

The students were on their way to the airport to travel to a NASA space camp in the US.

The exciting US trip the students were heading to included six nights at the NASA space camp, two nights in Washington, a tour of the US Capitol building, lunch with an astronaut and an airboat tour through the Florida Everglades.

The excursion, which cost $7,700 per student, was previously cancelled because of Covid restrictions.

The school released a statement at midday Thursday to thank emergency responders and reassure parents.

Victoria Police Detective Inspector Roger Schranz (pictured) said the truck driver, who was seriously injured, collided with the bus because traffic had built up from a pervious crash

Victoria Police Detective Inspector Roger Schranz (pictured) said the truck driver, who was seriously injured, collided with the bus because traffic had built up from a pervious crash

The truck and car collided (location pinpointed) in Bacchus Marsh, in Melbourne's north-west, at 3.15am on Wednesday

The truck and car collided (location pinpointed) in Bacchus Marsh, in Melbourne’s north-west, at 3.15am on Wednesday

‘The college is very appreciative of the quick and professional response of the emergency services personnel at the scene and very grateful to Grampians Health for their ongoing support,’ the statement said.

‘Our caring Loreto community has deep concern for the injured and their families and we ask for their privacy to be respected. We thank you for your understanding.’ 

Premier Daniel Andrews offered support to the school after speaking to the principal on Wednesday.

The Melbourne-bound lanes of the Western Freeway between Ballan and Bacchus Marsh have since re-opened.

Major collision unit detectives are investigating the exact circumstances of the crash.

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