‘Hearts broken’: memorial honours victims of bus crash

Samantha Lock |

The crash in which 10 people were killed was the worst in Australia for nearly 30 years.
The crash in which 10 people were killed was the worst in Australia for nearly 30 years.

The grief shared by the families who lost loved ones in the NSW Hunter Valley bus crash is a “ripple on a pond affecting all that it touches”, a memorial has been told.

Saturday’s public gathering was held in Singleton, the country town home to many who died.

Ten wedding guests were killed and another 25 were injured when their coach rolled near Greta in the Hunter Valley, late on June 11.

The crash, on the bend of a highway on-ramp, occurred late at night as guests were being driven home from the reception.

It was the worst road disaster in Australia for nearly 30 years.

Singleton Memorial
Hundreds attended the public memorial in Singleton for the victims of the Hunter bus crash.

Nadene McBride, who coached the Singleton Roosterettes, and her 22-year-old daughter Kyah, who played in the team, were among those killed. 

Nadene’s sister Helen Arthur said the tragedy had forever changed the family’s lives. 

“Our lives are unrecognisable,” she said.

“Our hearts are broken. Our grief and emotions are all encompassing.”

The grief the family felt was not theirs alone, Ms Arthur said.

“I see it as a ripple on a pond affecting all that it touches.”

Jackie Varasdi, the mother of 29-year-old victim Zach Bray, also addressed the other families “suffering the deep loss of our beautiful 10”.

“I hope like my family, you also find comfort knowing that they’re all together, wherever that may be,” she said.

Roosterettes captain Tori Cowburn, 29, was remembered for her zest for life, love of family, and her “crazy nature, too”.

“With every passing moment, every minute of every day, the love I have for you my darling girl in my heart will forever stay,” her mother Kay Welsh told a solemn crowd.

Bagpipes played the Scottish folk tune ‘Flowers at the Forest’ as the mourners gathered.

Bus crash memorial
Relatives of Kyah and Nadene McBride were among those to attend the Hunter bus crash memorial.

Premier Chris Minns said the families and friends of those killed had been through challenges “most of us can’t begin to imagine” and noted the extraordinary outpouring of support within the community.

“Our emergency service workers, our healthcare workers, treated the injured and they treated those who passed with kindness and empathy, as if they were treating a member of their own personal family,” he said.

NSW Ambulance chaplain Scott Mackenzie thanked the first responders for their calm professionalism.

“We want to thank the call takers, the dispatchers, the paramedics, the aeromedical teams, the police and forensics,” he said.

“Fire and Rescue NSW, the Rural Fire Service, the SES,  the emergency department nurses and doctors, and to the off-duty officers that attended. Thank you for your sacrifice, that late evening and early morning.”

He also thanked the ongoing work provided by support officers and psychologists.

Following the service, the showground hosted a free communal barbecue in partnership with local charities while sprigs of gum leaves were handed out.

Singleton Memorial
Sprigs of gum leaves were handed to those at the memorial for the Hunter Valley bus crash victims.

The Hunter Valley Bus Tragedy Fund, administered by Rotary, closed in September after raising close to $1.5 million.

The NSW government donated $100,000 with the funds expected to assist those affected by the crash.

Bus driver Brett Andrew Button, 59, faces 62 charges over the crash and remains before the courts.