Dozens of schoolgirls have been taken to hospital following a horrific collision involving a school bus and a truck northwest of Melbourne.
The students were on their way to the airport for a trip to the US when the bus and truck collided in the early hours of Wednesday morning on the Western Highway in Bacchus Marsh.
The bus then rolled down an embankment at about 3.15am. The bus was carrying students from a school in the Ballarat area.
One teenage girl was airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries. All 27 students on the bus, four adults and the bus driver were taken to the hospital for observation.
The male truck driver was also taken to hospital after suffering serious injuries.
Footage taken from the scene shows the bus on its side down the embankment. It appears luggage is lying next to the chartered bus on the grass.
The truck remained on the freeway following the crash.
The girls on the bus were from Loreto College Ballarat and were in years 9 to 12, the ABC reported.
Collision follows earlier crash on the road
At a press conference on Wednesday, Detective Inspector Roger Schranz from Road Crime Investigation said the bus and truck collision happened after an earlier crash.
He said Vic Road workers were rehabilitating the area — there were speed reduction signs and the rope barriers were destroyed.
“The bus has slowed down as per the signs indicating the reduced [limit] and then the truck has come around the corner and headed down towards the hill,” Det Insp Schranz said.
He added the truck driver then saw the speed reduction signs and traffic banking up, before colliding with the bus and forcing it off the road and down the embankment.
Parents asked to stay away
A police spokeswoman told 3AW radio station the students were on their way to the airport for a trip to the US.
The students' parents were asked to stay away from the crash and contact the Ballarat police station.
"We know there's going be a lot of concerned parents out there. And we really ask them not to attend the scene," the spokesperson said on the radio.
Following the crash, the Western Freeway in the Melbourne-bound direction at Pentland Hills has been closed and is expected to stay that way for quite some time.
Traffic is being diverted and people are being asked to allow for extra travel time.
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