Harrowing | 

Bus carrying 27 schoolgirls plunged 50 metres down hill after slamming into truck

All 32 people as well as the truck driver were rushed to hospital

A school bus carrying 27 female students veered off the motorway after a crash with a truck (Image: AAP/PA Images)

Sunday World

A "trip of a lifetime" for dozens of girls on a school trip ended in horror after their bus slammed into a truck and flipped off a motorway outside Melbourne in the early hours of this morning.

The bus carrying 27 schoolgirls, four adults and the driver, plunged 50 metres down a hill after the crash.

All 32 people as well as the truck driver were rushed to hospital.

It has been reported that the students from Loreto College in Ballarat were on their way to Melbourne airport to fly to the United States and visit the NASA space camp at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

The mum of one of the schoolgirls told 9News the "trip of a lifetime" to the space camp had been cancelled last year due to Covid.

Harrowing pictures showed the students' suitcases and belongings strewn across the hill as emergency services worked at the crash site.

Cops have urged parents to stay away and call the local police station for the latest updates.

One man who rushed to the scene shed tears while describing how one girl’s leg was partially amputated.

Trevor Oliver, who works for a towing company, said he was shocked by what he saw.

“Instantly your heart sinks, but then to get there and find students, (it’s) another world,” he told 7 News.

Mr Oliver went down the embankment, and with the help of about six other people, took off the driver’s windscreen so the girls could get out.

“The worst one was a girl who had her leg partially amputated,” he said.

“Three of us got hold of her … we got her free and carried her out.

“(I) was just trying to calm her down, grabbing whatever we could to wrap her leg because we were conscious of her bleeding.

“It just seemed like an eternity to get enough ambulances there.”

Ballarat Police Acting Superintendent Jason Templar said the fact that everyone had been wearing seatbelts probably prevented any deaths.

“Early indications from the investigations is that they were all wearing seatbelts which has probably saved any fatalities from the bus, which is fantastic,” he said.

”Had that not been the case … we could have been talking about a different outcome.”

Five of the students had to be cut free from the bus, while those who were less injured helped direct assistance to those who needed it.

Paramedics assessed more than 30 people on scene with “traumatic injuries”.

Superintendent Templar said first responders, which included ambulance services and paramedics, were highly impressed with the way Loretto students and staff handled the crash.

Some managed to extract themselves from the bus after it came to rest on its roof.

Loreto principal Michelle Brodrick said the trip was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

“That‘s where they thought they were going to be today,” she said.

Two teenage girls, one with lower body injuries and the other with upper body injuries, were flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital in serious but stable conditions.

The bus was carrying students ranging from year nine to year 11, four adults and the bus driver – who have been taken to hospital for observation.

At least two teachers – a woman aged in her 40s and a man aged in his 50s – were taken by road to hospitals in a serious condition.

Ballarat Base Hospital implemented a code brown following the crash, which was stood down at 2pm.

Grampians Health said the 15 students at Ballarat Base Hospital were in a stable condition and have all been reunited with their families.

“Grampians Health can confirm that one Loreto staff member and 15 students were transferred to the Ballarat Base Hospital for treatment and observation following the accident, and all are in a stable condition,” it said in a statement.

“Ballarat is a close community, and we understand there is concern for those involved in this accident. We can confirm that all students in our care have been reunited with their families, and some have been discharged home.”

Ms Brodrick described Ballarat as a “close community” and said the students were in “everyone‘s thoughts” in the historic mining town.

She said she had spoken to a number of students, and confirmed that “everyone is recovering.”

Road crime investigation Detective Inspector Roger Schranz said speed reduction road signs were in place due to a heavy vehicle collision that happened about 5.30pm on Tuesday.

There were no casualties in the earlier crash.

“The collision involving the bus and truck happened while Victoria Roads crews were still clearing the area,” Inspector Schranz said.

Police believe the bus had stopped at the speed reduction signs when the truck, which was unable to slow down in time, crashed into the bus, sending it rolling down the embankment.

The speed limit on the freeway, which is usually 110km/h, was reduced to 40km/h at the time of the crash.

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