Bus driver set to plead to charges over fatal crash

Mark Russell |

Brett Button (left) is accused causing the deaths of 10 people and injuring many more.
Brett Button (left) is accused causing the deaths of 10 people and injuring many more.

A bus driver accused of causing one of Australia’s deadliest crashes, killing 10 people and injuring 25, is expected to plead to the charges next month.

Brett Button, 59, appeared briefly in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday, where his lawyer indicated he planned to enter pleas to the charges against him at his next court appearance over the Hunter Valley crash in June 2023.

Defence barrister Chris O’Brien applied for the case to be adjourned to May 8, so discussions with the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions could continue.

Investigators at the scene of the bus crash (file image)
The bus crash killed 10 people and injured 25 others. (Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr O’Brien said a case conference was held on Tuesday, but further talks were needed.

He said it was anticipated Button would be ready to plead to the charges next month and either be committed for trial if he pleaded not guilty or for sentencing if he pleaded guilty.

The defence barrister said he was hoping to have an expert report ready by the time the case returned to court.

Mr O’Brien said the defence needed to respond to a specialist opinion provided to the ODPP. He did not reveal what the opinion being sought involved.

Magistrate Caleb Franklin agreed to adjourn the matter to May 8 and continued Button’s bail.

Button did not comment when leaving court.

Chris O'Brien (file image)
Chris O’Brien expects his client to plead to the charges next month. (Luke Costin/AAP PHOTOS)

Button was granted bail in June after concerns were raised for his mental health and wellbeing if he remained in custody.

He is facing a total of 89 charges after 10 counts of manslaughter and 16 counts of causing bodily harm by “wanton or furious driving’ were added to his previous charges when the case was mentioned in court in January.

Button was arrested after losing control of a bus taking 35 wedding guests from the Wandin Valley Estate to Singleton about 11.30pm on June 11.

The bus slammed into a guard rail and rolled onto its side.

He released a statement outside court on March 13, which Mr O’Brien read out on his behalf, saying there was “not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what happened that day, that night”.

“I am devastated by what has occurred, and for that I am truly and deeply sorry,” Button said in the statement.

The scene of the bus crash (file image)
The bus rolled onto its side after hitting a guard rail. (Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS)

Button was accused of taking the roundabout on Wine Country Drive at Greta too fast, allegedly telling some passengers to “fasten your belts” before the fatal crash in thick fog.

Many on board the 57-seat Volvo bus were members of the Singleton Roosters Australian Rules Football Club.

The 10 people who died in the crash were: Nadene McBride and her daughter , Kyah, 22, of Singleton; Kane Symons, 21, from Tasmania; Andrew Scott, 35, and his wife Lynan, 33, of Singleton; Zach Bray, 29, from Byron Bay; Angus Craig, 28, from Queensland; Darcy Bulman, 30, from Melbourne; Tori Cowburn, 29, and Rebecca Mullen, both of Singleton.

The Hunter Valley Bus Tragedy Fund, administered by Rotary, to help those affected by the crash raised almost $1.5 million.

Those on board the bus had earlier attended the wedding of Mitchell Gaffney and Madeleine Edsell.

The names of the 25 injured people on the bus have been suppressed.

Button was originally charged with 10 counts each of dangerous driving and negligent driving causing death, nine counts each of dangerous driving and negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm, and 25 counts of causing bodily harm by misconduct.

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