Teen’s ‘nightmare’ after horror crash: court

Brett Russell, 61, is facing a committal hearing on 80 charges after a horror crash near Bacchus Marsh. Picture: NCA Newswire / Nicki Connolly

A court has been told a teenage student suffers recurring nightmares of a horror bus crash “every time I shut my eyes” as the truck driver allegedly responsible faced a key hearing.

Brett Michael Russell, 61, returned before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Monday for a multi-day committal hearing which will decide if he stands trial.

He sat behind his lawyer, John Lavery, with his head bowed and squeezing his hands together.

Mr Russell was charged with dozens of driving offences after he allegedly crashed into a school bus on September 21, 2022, injuring 25 Loreto College students and 10 adults.

There were 27 students, four staff and a bus driver on board when the incident occured. Picture: Nine News
There were 27 students, four staff and a bus driver on board when the incident occured. Picture: Nine News

The students were travelling from Ballarat to Melbourne Airport ahead of an overseas trip to a NASA space camp in the United States.

Prosecutors allege the father-of-four ignored warning signs and rear-ended the school bus shortly after 3am, which rolled down an embankment off the Western Highway and ejected three passengers.

It’s further alleged the brakes of two trailers attached to the B-Double truck were below the minimum standard and “inoperable”, with Mr Russell allegedly aware of the issue.

According to court documents, the truck’s brakes had allegedly run out of air, with Mr Russell stating “I knew I’d be right” when asked why he didn’t pull over.

“It’s a double lane and I knew I’d make it down there,” he allegedly told police.

“All I wanted to do was get to that rest stop area at … Melton”.

Mr Russell has yet to enter pleas on the charges. Pictures: NCA Newswire / Nicki Connolly

He was initially charged with 46 offences but this was increased to 80 at a hearing in July last year following further investigations into the crash and examination of medical evidence.

The charges include negligent driving causing serious injury, recklessly engaging in conduct endangering death and recklessly causing injury.

The court was told those on the bus allegedly suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result of the crash, with most continuing to suffer PTSD.

Mr Lavery said the committal was being run on the nature of the alleged injuries suffered by some, because only limited medical evidence had been provided by prosecutors.

“Causation (of the crash) is not an issue here,” he said.

Mr Russell was also injured in the incident. Picture: Nine News
Mr Russell was also injured in the incident. Picture: Nine News

Five medical personnel who provided treatment to several people following the crash were called to give evidence, including Gabrielle French, a psychologist who continues to work with a then-Year 10 student.

She told the court she had been seeing the student previously but their appointments were put on hold a month before the crash.

Ms French said the student returned with “significant” trauma, reporting dissociation, mood changes, hypervigilance, flashbacks and recurring nightmares.

“Everytime I shut my eyes I think of the accident,” she recounted the student as saying.

“I don’t want to go to sleep.”

Ms French said the student had missed a “significant” amount of schooling since the crash.

Mr Russell covered his face and refused to comment as he left court on Monday afternoon.

The committal, before Magistrate Kieran Gilligan, will continue on Tuesday.