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OPINION: Where is the justice for families of Hunter Valley bus tragedy?

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As a long-time journalist, you tend to become desensitised to “bad news” stories as each year – or decade – passes.

But, then, along comes an incident that impacts you on a personal level.

For me, that was the Hunter Valley bus tragedy, which devastated – and continues to distress – the local community.

On that fateful night, Sunday 11 June 2023, 10 people were killed, and countless others injured, when one man, Brett Button, lost control of the vehicle he was driving at the roundabout on Wine Country Drive at Greta.

All of them returning from an afternoon/evening of happiness as guests of a wedding.

Little did they know of what was to come.

McBride
Nadene McBride (left) and daughter Kyah (right) with Cameron White, Jake Mellon and Jed Ellis-Cluff ahead of the Singleton Roosters’ Sir Doug Nicholls indigenous round in 2021. Photo: Rod Thompson

However, we lost mother-and-daughter Nadene and Kyah McBride, husband-and-wife Andrew and Lynan Scott, Kane Symons, Rebecca Mullen, Darcy Bulman, Zach Bray, Tori Cowburn and Angus Craig.

In particular, I knew five of the victims from my time as Upper Hunter editor at ACM.

The McBrides, Andrew Scott, Rebecca Mullen and Tori Cowburn were more than brilliant when I covered the Singleton Roosters AFL club.

Nothing was too much for them and, as such, the organisation received plenty of coverage.

Sometimes, I’d even catch up with Nadene and Tori while on my walks around Rose Point Park.

Always smiling, always polite and always keen to discuss the mighty Roosters.

Andrew tended to my mum after a hip replacement, too.

So, I’m aware first-hand of the impact their deaths have had on everyone.

But, it’s probably nothing compared to what they must be going through today after hearing the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) made a deal to drop the 10 manslaughter charges against the “cowardly” Button.

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

Are you kidding me?

This man, who from every report should not have been behind the wheel anyway, destroyed countless families in a split second.

According to eye-witnesses, the accident scene was horrific, resembling a “war zone” as a lucky survivor described it.

First-responders needed counselling as did residents throughout Singleton and neighbouring Cessnock.

So, where is the justice for those affected – and traumatised – by Button’s actions?

What must the families of Nadene, Kyah, Andrew, Lynan, Kane, Rebecca, Darcy, Zach, Tori and Angus be feeling?

Utterly let down – and distraught – by the justice system is the answer that springs immediately to mind.

To me, the DPP’s response is simply a cop out.

“The decision to accept a plea of guilty involves complex issues of fact and law,” it said.

“These decisions are always made after close and careful consideration of the evidence and in accordance with the prosecution guidelines.”

What a crock!

Button will next appear in the District Court when a sentence date is set.

One can only hope, he gets his just desserts then.

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