‘Guilty’: Update after fatal wedding bus crash

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire Photos - 12 JUNE, 2023: Aerial scene coverage from the site where ten people have died, and 11 people were hospitalised after a bus carrying wedding guests crashed in the Hunter Valley. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles
Ten people died, and 11 people were hospitalised after a bus carrying wedding guests crashed in the Hunter Valley. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

The driver of a wedding bus that crashed in NSW’s Hunter Valley killing 10 people and injuring 25 more, in one of the worst ever road incidents will wait to learn his fate.

Brett Button, 59, appeared before Newcastle District Court on Thursday morning after reaching a plea deal with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions that angered the families of the victims.

Mr Button was driving guests from a wedding reception at Wandin Valley Estate back to Singleton on June 11 when the bus flipped onto its side at a roundabout at Greta.

Brett Button will return to court on Thursday from custody. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
Chopper Flight - HUNTER BUS CRASH
The bus crashed at a roundabout at Greta in the NSW Hunter Valley. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

Dressed in prison greens, Mr Button formally entered pleas of guilty to each death via AVL from Shortland prison – solemnly stating “guilty, your honour” for each count.

Mr Button was seen at points looking down at his hands as he formally pleaded guilty to all 19 charges, which also included nine counts of causing grievous bodily harm.

Judge Peter McGrath said the withdrawal of remaining charges would not happen until sentence proceedings, a date for which would not be set until June 13.

Brett Button's barrister, Chris O'Brien, leaving Newcastle court on Thursday. Picture: NewsWire / Damian Shaw
Supporters of Mr Button were also in attendance. Picture: NewsWire / Damian Shaw

“Sentence proceedings in the court complex are measured in hours – usually small numbers of hours – rather than days, but this is a different matter,” he said.

A set of facts agreed upon by the police prosecutor and barrister Chris O’Brien were also formally tendered, with Mr Button excused from next month’s appearance.

The Cessnock man at one point faced a whopping 89 charges, but ultimately pleaded guilty to 10 counts of dangerous driving occasioning death earlier this year.

Mr Button, who is in custody, also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm in relation to the people who were also injured.

The horrific crash quickly became one of NSW’s – and Australia’s – worst ever road incidents and sparked immediate calls for inquiries into road safety laws.

The crash also left the local Hunter Valley and Cessnock communities devastated, with solemn services held for those killed in the weeks and months afterwards.

Members of the local community at an evening vigil for those killed in the bus crash. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Jeremy Piper
Leanne Mullen, mother of Hunter Valley bus crash victim Rebecca Mullen outside Newcastle Local Court. Picture: NewsWire / Damian Shaw

Those killed in the crash included Andrew Scott, 35, and wife Lynan Scott, 33; Nadene McBride, 52, daughter Kyah McBride, 22, and her partner, Kane Symons, 21.

Darcy Bulman, 30, Rebecca Mullen, 26, Zachary Bray, 29, Tori Cowburn, and Angus Craig, 28, were also killed in the crash and were laid to rest last year.

Speaking outside of court, Leanne Mullen, whose daughter Rebecca died in the crash, said she wanted to be in court on Thursday to represent her daughter.

“I’ve been here every time, so I do that to be her eyes, ears, her voice if I need to,” she said, adding she would turn her attention to law reform after Mr Button was sentenced.

Mr Button’s barrister, Chris O’Brien, was tight-lipped as he left the courthouse, with Mr Button’s wife and daughter trailing behind having supported him in court.