Tragic scene ... salvage crews retrieve the bus from its resting place off South Arm Road at Urunga. Photo: CHRIS RIX
Tragic scene ... salvage crews retrieve the bus from its resting place off South Arm Road at Urunga. Photo: CHRIS RIX

Student killed in crash


TOORMINA High School Year 12 students are mourning the loss of one of their own.

A Urunga 17-year-old, who was preparing for next month's HSC exams, died after her school bus hit a car and plunged down a steep embankment on Urunga's South Arm Road late on Friday afternoon.

Her name was not released yesterday.

Toormina High principal Liz Donnan said the student was 'obviously a very-much loved girl'.

"She was a clever girl and was a high academic achiever, and her friends are, too," Ms Donnan said.

"The children are very deeply affected."

Ms Donnan said Year 12 students were planning a special tribute to their schoolmate at an assembly at the end of the month, as well as a tribute page in their yearbook.

Counsellors and teachers were being made available to students, and while the tragedy would have an impact ahead of the HSC, the Board of Studies had the ability to take their circumstances into account.

At 4.30pm on Friday, the southbound Mercedes school bus and a northbound Falcon station wagon collided on a tight bend.

The bus was driven by a Repton man, 55, and had aboard seven children, aged nine to 17, from various schools throughout the district.

It ran off the road and careered up to 20 metres down the bank.

The Urunga 17-year-old was thrown from the bus and suffered serious internal injuries.

She was later airlifted to Sydney's St George Hospital but died from her injuries.

The bus driver suffered a broken leg and was taken in a stable condition to Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

The other children and the Falcon driver, a Urunga woman, 47, were also taken to hospital, however, they were not badly injured and were discharged.

Urunga SES senior rescue officer Peter Butt knew he and his colleagues had a tough task ahead when they arrived at the scene.

Ambulance crews were already hard at work.

"When I first drove the rescue truck in and I saw where the bus was located, all I thought was 'Oh my God'," Mr Butt said.

"But you stop, take a deep breath, have another look and get into it."

Their primary task was to carefully move the seriously injured girl and the bus driver, who was at the side of the bus when they arrived, up to the top of the embankment and to waiting ambulances.

"The terrain was very slippery and very muddy. There was a lot of tree debris and a lot of broken glass," he said.

Rescuers extended a ladder from the top of their truck down to the wrecked bus to make access easier.

They put both patients on rescue boards, loaded them onto litters and hauled them to the road above.

"The decision was made to remove the bus on Saturday in daylight hours. It would have been too treacherous otherwise," Mr Butt said.

He admitted to being in awe of the ambulance officers at the scene.

"To watch these ambulance officers work out there in those conditions was absolutely mindblowing. Those blokes are magicians," he said.

Police and the Rural Fire Service also attended.

Passers by helped ensure the road was cleared for emergency crews to come through.

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