Truckie’s ‘sun flickers’ claim on bus crash
A Melbourne truck driver has appeared in court accused of dangerous driving charges after a horrific collision with a school bus that left multiple children with serious injuries.
Jamie Gleeson, 49, appeared remotely in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday afternoon still wearing an orange high-vis shirt.
He kept his head down, and could be heard deeply sighing on several occasions.
Prosecutor Mr Kerwin told the court police would need a significant amount of time to prepare the case, requesting 16 weeks to account for the “large number of children involved” and size of the collision.
He said Mr Gleeson had been charged with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury and may face “additional charges” after investigations into the incident continue.
The court heard the man, from Melbourne’s outer west, had been a truck driver for 18-years and had just finished work driving clay from Bulla to Kensington when the crash occurred.
Reading the police summary, Mr Kerwin said Mr Gleeson told police he was on his “usual route home” at the time and driving about 70km per hour.
“Next thing I know the bus in front slowed,” he allegedly told police.
“I tried to take evasive action but I couldn’t.”
Mr Kerwin said Mr Gleeson recounted seeing “sun flickers” from through trees which he knew could distort his vision.
He allegedly told police he would usually react by slowing down, but on this occasion he didn’t.
According to the summary, Mr Gleeson stopped at the scene, called triple-0 and began helping pull children from the records.
There was no allegation Mr Gleeson was affected by drugs or alcohol.
His lawyer, Ms Edwards, successfully applied for his bail saying there was “no allegation he tried to abscond or minimise his involvement”.
The bus, which was carrying 45 schoolchildren, was allegedly struck from behind by a tipper truck while at an Eynesbury intersection, in Melbourne’s west, at about 3.45pm on Tuesday.
About 40m of pre-impact breaking marks were located by investigators.
The court heard the ages of all involved were not yet known, but nine “school-age children” were found trapped in the wreckage, eight suffered life-threatening injuries and two had since had hands and arms amputated.
Eight were described as seriously injured, while 30 were “walking wounded”.
Victoria Police Superintendent Michael Cruse said children had suffered “really life-changing injuries”.
“The injuries were really life-changing and this incident was avoidable,” he told media on Wednesday afternoon.
Superintendent Cruse said “inattention” is being considered as part of the investigation, with more charges expected to be laid.
Eighteen children from Exford Primary School were taken to hospital, seven with serious injuries.
Exford Primary School Principal Lisa Campo told reporters a community member had called the school, alerting her of the bus crash just as staff were set to sit down for a meeting.
“They said the bus has been in an accident … I said ‘got to go’ and they all followed me down,” Ms Campo said.
“I didn’t know what I was going to see; I honestly thought we’d be there comforting some distressed kids who had been in a minor collision … I didn’t ever expect to see that and hope I never see that again.
The bus driver, a 52-year-old Melton West man, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Superintendent Cruse praised the bus driver for immediately jumping to action and helping the children despite being injured.
Passers-by also “heroically” stopped to assist children being removed from the bus.
“Some of the children were trapped and it was horrific scenes,” Superintendent Cruse said.
“It was chaotic and it would’ve been really confronting for those passers-by.”
Royal Children’s Hospital chief executive Bernadette McDonald gave an update on the condition of the seven children, whose ages range from 5 to 11, with serious injuries on Wednesday morning.
“We have a number of children with partial, one child has had a complete amputation,” she said.
She said one child was in the intensive care unit.
“The children have suffered multiple and traumatic injuries, including partial and complete amputations of arms, multiple crush limb injuries, severe lacerations to head and body injuries, glass shard injuries and three patients are currently receiving spinal support and being monitored, carefully, in terms of spinal injuries.
“We still have two patients to go into theatre. The theatre teams did operate until the early hours of the morning, and we still have more theatre to go today. Some of these patients will require returns to theatres and multiple surgeries in the coming days and the coming weeks.
“When we became aware of the nature of the injuries, we called in specialist plastic surgery and vascular surgery support from the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Ms McDonald said she was “very surprised” that there were no fatalities.
“I would never say we’re lucky,” she said.
Mr Gleeson was granted bail by Magistrate Andrew McKenna and will return to court on October 18.
He cannot leave Victoria or drive a heavy vehicle while on bail.