The father of a truck driver charged after a horror crash injured dozens of schoolchildren northwest of Melbourne says his son is “shattered” by the incident.
Robert Gleeson spoke to reporters on Thursday after his son, Jamie Gleeson, was released from custody the night before.
“He’s very distraught, he’s more distressed about the fact that there’s children involved and families involved,” the Herald Sun reported he said outside his Balliang East property.
“He’s going to have to live with this accident … we’re all going to have to, and we all support him.”
The comments came after a school bus containing 46 primary school-aged children and its driver rolled after being struck by a truck while turning at Eynesbury about 3.55pm on Tuesday.
Nine children were trapped in the wreckage, while eight suffered life-threatening injuries, eight had serious injuries and 30 were described as “walking wounded”.
Two children have since had limbs amputated.
As of Thursday, seven children remain in the Royal Children’s Hospital in a stable condition.
Mr Gleeson described his son as a “good lad” who was always trying to do things for those around him
“Unfortunately, a lot of people will be affected by this with their children and Jamie is very, very upset about that fact,” he said.
Jamie Gleeson, 49, was arrested at the scene and charged with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury the following afternoon after speaking with police.
He faced court later the same day where further details about the horrific crash were revealed.
Prosecutor Ben Kerwin said Mr Gleeson had allegedly finished work an hour earlier after spending about 10 hours driving “five to six” loads of clay from Bulla to a worksite in the inner Melbourne suburb of Kensington.
He was on his way home driving his “usual route”, he said.
Mr Kerwin alleged there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs and Mr Gleeson told investigators he was driving about 70km per hour – 10km per hour below the posted speed limit.
The court heard the bus had slowed and was indicating right when its right rear panel was struck by the truck – causing it to flip on it’s side.
“Next thing I know the bus in front slowed and started to go to the right and all of a sudden I saw brake lights,” the father of two allegedly told police.
“I tried to take evasive action but I couldn’t … the impact didn’t feel massive.”
The court heard the bus driver, 52, had seen the truck approaching at speed and had attempted to accelerate through his turn to get out of the way.
In a statement, his employer L & J Cartage said the family-owned company was distressed by the crash and that Mr Gleeson had been driving trucks for more than 20 years.
“Our hearts go out to everyone involved, especially the children and their families. We are deeply shocked and saddened at what has happened,” a spokesman said.
On Thursday, Victoria’s Premier flagged his government could make changes to laws governing seat belts on buses in the wake of a horror crash which injured dozens of school students.
Speaking to reporters, Daniel Andrews said his government would “have a very close look” at existing laws.
“It’s really important that we establish what happened here and then learn from it,” he said.
“See whether there’s more that we can do … we owe that to everyone who’s been caught up in this.”
Mr Andrews praised first responders and community members assisting after the crash, which occurred less than a kilometre from Exford Primary School.
Road safety advocate Donald Gibb said Australian governments had been “asleep at the wheel” on the issue of seatbelts and road safety.
“I think the supervision, control and monitoring of children in buses is long overdue,” he told ABC Rural Radio.
No buses or coaches are required by law to have seatbelts in Victoria, unless there is a seat directly facing a front windscreen.
Free school buses in regional Victoria started being fitted with seatbelts from 2013 and they are now installed in 83 per cent of the buses as of March 2023.
Bus drivers are exempt from laws requiring drivers enforce passengers wear seatbelts.
Mr Gleeson was released on bail and will return to court in October.