The 58-year-old driver of the bus, named in court documents as Brett Andrew Button, was charged with 10 counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and one of negligent driving occasioning death. He was taken to a hospital for testing and assessment before being transferred to a police station. He is due to appear in court on Tuesday.
Tracy Chapman, a New South Wales police superintendent, said emergency officials responded to reports of a crash around 11.30 p.m. Sunday local time and arrived to find a “confronting and very traumatic scene.”
The bus overturned near a roundabout connecting the picturesque Hunter Valley wine region to an expressway. Police declined to comment on reports that the driver had boasted about how fast he could drive in the moments before the crash, but they confirmed that the bus was traveling too fast for the conditions.
“Obviously the speed was too quick for him to negotiate that roundabout,” acting assistant commissioner David Waddell said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Investigations into the circumstances of the crash are ongoing.
Police are still identifying the victims of the crash, which reportedly included members of a local Australian rules football team. A club secretary declined to comment on Monday.
Waddell said the passengers on the bus ranged in age from 20 to 60. Fourteen people remain in the hospital following the crash and two are in intensive care, he said.
The bus passengers had attended a wedding Sunday at Wandin Estate — a popular winery and wedding venue — and were heading to Singleton, a town about 20 miles away, to stay the night, according to police.
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.
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) June 11, 2023
“All of us know the joy of going to a wedding, a chance to celebrate dear friends and family. They are some of the happiest times that you can have,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a news conference on Monday. “For a joyous day like that in a beautiful place to end with such terrible loss of life and injury is so cruel and so sad and so unfair.”
He promised to provide support to the victims and their families.
Keith Wolahan, a lawmaker from Victoria state, said in a tweet that the bride and groom grew up in Warrandyte, on the outskirts of Melbourne, and played for the local cricket, football and netball clubs. It was unclear whether they were on the bus.
On its website, the winery promises an “unrivaled” experience with the “perfect blend of Hunter beauty, fragrant settings, seasonal local cuisine, the finest wines.”
The winery didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement posted on Instagram, Wandin Estate said it was “deeply saddened to hear of the bus crash overnight that has claimed the lives of some of our guests.” It offered its “heartfelt condolences” to the family and friends of the victims.
Clayton Barr, a local lawmaker, described the road where the crash occurred as “well-lit” with a good road surface and a low speed limit.
“It’s just a reminder of how fragile our lives are when we’re out on the road really,” he told Australia’s Nine television network.