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Memorial garden to honour Greta bus crash victims

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Nadene and Kyah McBride, Andrew and Lynan Scott, Kane Symons, Rebecca Mullen, Darcy Bulman, Zach Bray, Tori Cowburn and Angus Craig will never be forgotten.

As the one-year anniversary of the devastating Hunter bus crash approaches, Cessnock City Council has started construction on a memorial garden – located on the New England Highway between Branxton and Greta – to honour the victims of the fateful 11 June 2023 accident.

The tragedy, which claimed the lives of 10 people and injured a further 25, continues to have a profound and wide-reaching impact.

Just last week, Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell delivered an emotional address to NSW Parliament, on behalf of Ms Mullen’s parents Leanne and Matt, following the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) stunning decision to make a deal to drop 10 manslaughter charges against driver Brett Button.

That outcome, alone, allowed the 59-year-old to enter guilty pleas for the lesser crime, dangerous driving occasioning death.

While that result has greatly disappointed the respective families, they will take great comfort in council’s move to establish a lasting tribute for their loved ones.

Situated less than 1km from the crash site, part-way along the Branxton to Greta Memorial Shared Pathway currently under construction, the space aims to provide a tranquil setting for remembrance and reflection.

The memorial garden will feature 10 deciduous Pyrus Calleryana trees, each representing a life lost in the disaster, along with individual plaques displaying wording provided by the families.

Low-planted mounds and locally occurring native grasses, groundcovers and woodland trees will also screen the plot from the road and create a quiet, safe area for those wanting to pay their respects, along with users of the shared pathway.

A sandstone wall will formalise the edge of the lawn, with seating offered beneath the shade of the commemorative trees.

Cessnock City mayor Jay Suvaal thanked everyone involved in making the project a reality.

“My gratitude goes to the NSW Government, too, who is making a financial contribution,” he said.

“I am, however, pleased to share that the memorial garden will be completed in time to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the crash on Tuesday 11 June 2024.

“The devastating accident over the King’s Birthday long weekend last year affected the communities in our region and around the country.

“So, council identified an opportunity to dedicate a site to establish a safe, peaceful and respectful memorial garden for the families of victims, residents and visitors to pay their respects, and has consulted with the families on the concept and design of this lasting tribute.

“A memorial plaque will also be erected on the Rothbury side of the Hunter Expressway.”

Council is working with the families to explore options for a significant memorial closer to the crash site in the future.

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