Teens to give evidence on school bus crash injuries

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Eight school students who were injured when a truck crashed into the back of their school bus will be grilled about their injuries in court.

Brett Russell has been accused of ignoring warning signs that his truck was losing braking capacity, before it collided into the bus in September 2022.

He appeared via video link in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, charged with 80 offences including dangerous driving causing serious injury and reckless conduct endangering life.

The Loreto College Ballarat bus was on its way to the airport to take the teens on the trip of a lifetime to NASA space camp in the US, the court was previously told.

Russell was driving a B-double truck, towing a trailer, when it rear-ended the school bus, forcing it to roll down an embankment off the Western Highway at Pentland Hills, west of Melbourne, on September 21.

Police will allege he knew the brakes were inefficient before the crash.

Thirty-two people were injured, including 27 students, four teachers and the bus driver.

Prosecutors on Thursday told the court they were still awaiting medical reports from several hospitals, which they allege will prove the seriousness of each victim's injuries.

Magistrate Peter Reardon was critical of the prosecution's inability to produce the reports almost one year after the collision.

"I cant understand why there's not medical reports, to me it's not proper for this to take place, this is almost a year later," he said.

Russell's lawyer applied for eight students, now aged between 16 and 18, to give evidence on the seriousness of their injuries at a later hearing, due to the lack of medical reports.

"There's not adequate medical material in this brief, and there are a significant number of charges," barrister John Lavery said.

This includes a student whose foot was almost amputated due to his injuries.

Mr Lavery said the teen was treated by pediatric plastic and orthopedic surgeons.

"It sounds like it is a significant injury...there's no ability for defence to know if this injury has resolved or not, and that's why this witness is sought," he said.

Other students called to give evidence are alleged to have suffered from brain injuries, spinal fractures, concussions and psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The prosecution opposed the application because of the students' young ages, but this was rejected by the magistrate.

Mr Reardon ordered the students and some medical professionals be called to give evidence about their injuries at a four-day hearing in 2024.

"I will grant leave for those witnesses to be cross-examined on the issue of those health issues alone," he said.

The students, many of whom live in Ballarat, will be allowed to give evidence remotely.

Russell's bail was extended to his next appearance on March 4.