Hunter Valley wine region in mourning following bus crash

Our hearts go out to everyone in the Hunter Valley who has been affected by the devastating bus crash on June 11, 2023, which killed at least 10 people and injured 25 others.

Emergency services were called to the roundabout on Wine Country Drive near the Hunter Expressway off-ramp at Greta at 11.30pm on Sunday, after reports a bus had rolled.

The bus was carrying 35 guests from the wedding of Singleton Roosters Australian Rules player Mitchell Gaffney and Maddy Edsell at Wandin Estate winery.

It is believed members of the Singleton Roosters were on the bus, alongside players from Warrandyte Cricket Club in Melbourne, where Gaffney used to play.

Warrandyte Cricket Club president Royce Jaksic told The Sydney Morning Herald there were up to nine current players and their partners on the bus at the time of the crash. It is believed none of them have critical injuries.

The Hunter Valley is a little over two hours’ drive north from Sydney and is regarded as the birthplace of Australian wine. The wine region is a popular destination for weddings, business events and weekends away.

Wandin Estate was established in 1973. Its name was changed by former owner and television producer James Davern in honour of the fictional village in the iconic television series he had created in 1981, A Country Practice.

Wandin Estate winery issued a statement saying: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the bus crash overnight that has claimed the lives of some of our guests.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the victims and we are supporting them in any way we can.

“At this time, we are providing support to those guests who need our help and we wish to maintain their privacy and won’t be making further statements.”

The winery stayed closed on Monday.

Tourism association Hunter Valley Wine Country said in a statement: “It is with deep sadness that the Hunter community has woken to the terrible news about the fatal bus accident overnight.

“Our thoughts are with those directly impacted and their family and friends, along with those indirectly impacted by this event.

“The Association thanks and acknowledges the professionalism and care of the emergency services that attended the scene, many of whom live and work within our community.”

Cessnock Mayor Jay Suvaal said: “It’s something that no one wants to wake up to. My thoughts are obviously with the people involved in the accident but their family and friends as well as the first responders on scene because it must have been truly horrible for them as well,” he told Today.

“We are a major wedding and tourist destination in the Hunter Valley, and so there will be people from all over the state and the country that have been to these areas and have probably done similar things. I think it will send shockwaves right through the broader community.”

Hunter MP Dan Repacholi said: “You don’t expect to hear this anywhere in Australia, let alone here in the Hunter Valley, which is the one of the most picturesque places in the world.

“And then to have this happen and wake up to 10 deaths and lots of people in hospital, like it’s just something that you don’t you don’t ever think of will happen here.

“It’s devastating for the families and the loved ones and everyone, friends are all involved, and these people that have passed away.

“Everyone who has been in the Hunter at some stage has been on the bus, because that’s what we do here. We have buses so that people can go to these venues and have good days out and do good tastings and things like that in the area.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “All Australians waking up to tragic news from the Hunter send our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those killed in this horrific bus tragedy. For a day of joy to end in such devastating loss is cruel indeed. Our thoughts are also with those who have been injured.”

The lights at the Vivid Sydney festival were turned off on the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Museum of Contemporary Art and skyscrapers along Circular Quay at 7.30pm on Monday for one minute to honour those who have lost their lives.

The driver of the 57-seat bus was Brett Button, who has been charged with 10 counts of dangerous driving occasioning death – drive manner dangerous and negligent driving occasioning death.

The 58-year-old was refused bail and will appear at Cessnock Local Court tomorrow.

The bus was owned by transport company Linq Buslines, which has issued a statement following the crash.

“We are incredibly saddened to learn of the bus crash that has occurred overnight,” the statement read.

“Our hearts are with everyone involved in this terrible tragedy and we send our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

“We would like to thank the first responders to the scene, the emergency personnel and those who are continuing to assist.

“Trauma counselling services have been made available to all staff and their families at Linq Buslines.

“We are working with NSW Police and authorities as they investigate. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further while the investigation is underway.”

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