Truck driver bailed after crash that maimed schoolkids

·3-min read
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Police are investigating whether a truck driver was distracted before a crash that left 18 children in hospital, some with life-changing injuries.

Jamie Gleeson, 49, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court via video link on Wednesday afternoon charged with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury.

The Balliang East man was granted bail after prosecutors did not oppose his application.

Victoria Police Superintendent Michael Cruse said investigators were trying to establish what caused Tuesday's crash.

"Inattention is something that we are actively looking at as part of the investigation," he said.

"We want all road users to remain vigilant, concentrate, obey the speed limits ... and not use their mobile phone."

The bus carrying 46 children had just left Exford Primary School for the day when a truck hit it from behind at Eynesbury, 44km west of the Melbourne city centre, about 3.40pm.

Gleeson told police he hit the brakes after seeing brake lights on the bus in front of him, but it was too late to stop or swerve.

Eighteen children were taken to the Royal Children's and Sunshine hospitals after the crash, with seven seriously injured.

Royal Children's Hospital received nine patients aged five to 11, including two who were discharged after treatment at the emergency department.

Seven patients remain in the Royal Children's, including one in intensive care. All are in a stable condition.

The children have suffered multiple and traumatic injuries ranging from partial to complete amputations, crushed limbs and severe lacerations to their heads and bodies.

Three patients were receiving spinal support, while two children were still to go into surgery as of Wednesday afternoon.

Four of the more seriously injured children will require further surgeries over the coming days and weeks.

Several students were trapped inside the bus before witnesses and emergency workers pulled them from the wreckage, triaging them at the scene.

Tradesman Dean Eastway, who was driving behind the truck at the time of the crash, said the trapped children were terrified and some were calling out for their mothers.

"We sat there and we asked them their names … and just tried to keep them calm, just talking to them and reassuring them," he told ABC's 7.30 program.

The male bus driver sustained minor injuries in the collision.

Exford Primary School principal Lisa Campo said staff were told of the crash during their afternoon meeting and several rushed to the scene to find the overturned bus.

"It's just distressing knowing what our kids have been through and I can only just imagine their fear," she said, adding that support was being offered to students and parents.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the crash was horrific.

"My heart goes out to them and to their families at what must be an extraordinarily difficult time," he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he had been in contact with the school.

"The reason I called Lisa last night and again this morning was just to make sure that she knew and understood that 'whatever you ask for ... the answer will be yes. We're there for you'," he said.

Victorian Education Minister Natalie Hutchins said the school would remain open with mental health support workers on the ground.

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