MR Speaker, the town of Singleton in my electorate is in mourning. Very tragically, on Monday afternoon a horror crash occurred involving a prime mover and a school bus. As a consequence, one nine year old is dead, and many other young children, including his brother, are injured.
Young Harry Dunn was thrown from the bus on impact, he didn’t stand a chance. His seven-year-old brother Luke, and another student, remain in John Hunter Hospital with quite serious injuries.
Stories which have emerged from the incident paint a picture of mayhem, as kids screamed and parents who were within ear-shot of the accident ran to the scene. It is hard to imagine the pain and distress felt by those parents approaching the scene. It’s hard to imagine the pain of the drivers involved. And it’s even harder to imagine the pain of Dean and Sarah Dunn, the parents of nine-year-old Harry and seven-year-old Luke.
There could be no greater source of grief than the loss of a young child. The pain and sorrow is impossible for us to comprehend. Indeed the whole tragedy is difficult to comprehend.
Singleton is a relatively small town. Those who are not directly affected will be in the minority – they’ll be family friend, school teacher, the parent or relative of a fellow student or maybe a sporting coach.
They could be a resident near the scene of the accident, one of those who desperately tried to help the injured school children. They might be someone who regularly serve the boys or their fellow students in a shop.
It is just so tragic.
Understandably, the Principal of St Catherine’s School, Brian Lacey, said the School Community was struggling to deal with the tragedy and counsellors have been called in to help people deal with the grief.
He described Harry as an outstanding young boy who always had a smile on his face.
St Catherine’s is a great school full of great people. I’ve no doubt that Dean and Sarah Dunn and other family members are receiving plenty of support. Indeed support from the broader community has been overwhelming. People are flocking to the scene of the accident to lay floral tributes.
Understandably, questions are being asked about the safety of the intersection on which the tragedy occurred. So too are questions rightly being asked about the absence of seat belts on our school buses.
Maybe this week is not the time for a debate, but very soon there will be one about both issues.
It makes no sense that people are regularly fined for not wearing a seat belt and yet we throw our kids on a bus without one. That should change.
My deepest sympathies to everyone involved. This is one of the saddest speeches I’ve made. I hope I never need to make another like it.