Seatbelt mandate flagged after horror school bus smash

·3-min read
Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Seatbelts could be made compulsory on all Victorian buses after primary school students suffered life-altering injuries in a crash in Melbourne's west.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government could consider mandating seat belts on buses after a truck collided with the bus carrying 46 children from Exford Primary School at nearby Eynesbury on Tuesday.

"It's really important that we establish what happened here and then learn from it. We owe that to everyone who's been caught up in this," he told reporters on Thursday.

Under Victorian law, buses or coaches are not required to have seatbelts unless there is a seat directly facing a front windscreen.

But they must be worn if available, including on school buses.

Since 2013, all state school buses in regional and rural areas have been fitted with seatbelts.

More than 1100 dedicated school buses have seatbelts installed, with all school buses expected to be fitted out by the end of 2024.

First responders have said some of the primary school students in the crash were still strapped into their seatbelts as they were being rescued.

Mr Andrews said the responsibility rested with bus passengers to wear their seatbelts and changing the onus to drivers could lead to practical issues.

"The bus wouldn't go very far. They'd have to stop (for) every new passenger that came on," he said.

Truck driver Jamie Gleeson, from Balliang East, was bailed after facing Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday evening charged with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury.

"Our hearts go out to everyone involved, especially the children and their families," truck operator L & J Cartage said in a statement.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened at what has happened."

Christian's Bus Co operated the bus involved in the crash and company director Campbell Christian said he was extremely proud of the bus driver who did his best to avert it.

He requested privacy for the bus driver who was "deeply traumatised" after the crash.

"He is a private person and just needs time to recover," Mr Christian said.

"He has been transporting these children to and from school for several years, and is extremely fond of them all."

The driver put students' safety ahead of his own, Mr Christian said.

Investigators are trying to piece together what caused the collision, with Victoria Police flagging inattention as one line of inquiry.

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

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

As of Thursday afternoon, seven patients remained in the Royal Children's including one in intensive care, and two were left at Sunshine Hospital. All were in a stable condition.

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

Several students were trapped inside the tipped-over bus before witnesses and emergency workers pulled them free, triaging them and treating some at the scene.

Gleeson, a truck driver for more than 20 years, told police he noticed flashes of sunlight coming through the trees before the crash.

The 49-year-old said he hit the brakes after seeing the brake lights on the bus in front of him, but didn't have enough time to swerve before the crash.

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