Australian truck driver charged over school bus crash that hospitalised 18 children

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police on Wednesday charged a truck driver over a collision with a school bus near Melbourne that hospitalised eighteen children, including seven who were seriously injured.

The school bus carrying 45 students overturned after being hit from behind by a truck just before 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) on Tuesday in Eynesbury, about 40km west of state capital Melbourne.

Police on Wednesday charged a 49-year-old man with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury. He appeared in a Melbourne court on Wednesday and was granted bail, according to state broadcaster ABC.

At the scene of the accident on Tuesday, emergency services pulled trapped children from the wreckage and sent them to several area hospitals.

"We had passersby who heroically stopped and assisted the children who could be removed from the bus... some of the children were trapped and as you say it was a horrific scene," said Victoria police superintendent Michael Cruse.

Royal Children's Hospital Chief Executive Bernadette Mcdonald said on Wednesday morning the children admitted were between five- and 11-years old, with injuries including severed arms, crushed limbs and severe lacerations to their heads and bodies.

Specialist vascular and plastic surgeons were brought in from the Royal Melbourne hospital to help treat the injuries, she added.

Two patients were discharged after treatment in the emergency department and the seven remaining are in stable condition, a spokesperson told Reuters.

Separately, Royal Melbourne Hospital said one patient related to the accident was in stable condition.

Some of the other injured were sent to Sunshine Hospital, which had no immediate comment on their condition.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Kim Coghill)