A group of tradies who were first to respond to the Exford bus crash that left seven children in hospital have opened up about the harrowing experience.
The crash occurred on Tuesday afternoon after a truck collided with the school bus while the children were travelling home from Exford Primary School, near the intersection of Exford Road and Murphys Road at Eynesbury, around 44km west of Melbourne.
Victoria Police Superintendent Michael Cruse said “the scene was chaotic”, according to 9News.
The school bus was carrying 45 children, and onlookers including a group of tradies worked to free them from the overturned bus.
Dean Eastway, an air conditioning worker, was driving behind the truck when the crash happened and was one of the first tradesmen who rushed to the scene. He said when he got there, he could hear the children screaming and crying for their mothers.
Speaking to A Current Affair, the tradies recalled how the children were saying things like: “Get me out of here,” “I don’t want to go on the bus again,” “Help,” “Call my parents,” and “Where’s mum?”
“We weren’t sure if there was one person in there or a heap of people,” Eastway said.
“We ripped the sunroofs off and found all these kids in the bus. That was horrible.”
He said a number of students’ hands were trapped under the vehicle after they had fallen through it when it overturned.
“There was heaps of screaming, wanting to get out of there and they were just pinned down, some were … face down,” he said
Despite the horrific scenes, Eastway and several more tradies stayed inside the overturned bus with the children and tried to comfort them while they waited for emergency services to free them.
“We were just there to help the kids, everyone would do the same,” Cameron Chalmers said.
“We’ve all got kids, you’d just hope that anyone in our position would do the same thing.”
Other tradies who spoke to A Current Affair painted an equally heartbreaking image, with Chalmers telling the program that the children were concerned for their friends and siblings, and kept asking if they were okay.
“They’re some very brave little ones,” he said.
The crash resulted in 18 children being taken to hospital. Seven of the children had serious and life changing injuries, including partial amputations, head and spine injuries. One child required a full amputation of their arm.
All children survived the crash.
The driver of the truck, Jamie Gleeson, was charged with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury on Wednesday and has faced court.
The court heard he had just finished work when the crash occurred.
“Next thing I know the bus in front slowed,” he allegedly told police, per news.com.au.
“I tried to take evasive action but I couldn’t.”
Gleeson recounted seeing “sun flickers” from through trees which he said he knew could distort his vision.
He has since been released on bail, and there were no allegations that he was affected by drugs or alcohol.
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