By CRAIG McTEAR
FOUR people are dead and another badly injured after their Toyota Tarago slammed head-on into a busload of Ballina schoolkids on the Pacific Highway at Bonville yesterday.
The sole survivor from the van, believed to have been travelling south from the Clarence Valley, is a 15-year-old girl who suffered a serious head injury and a fractured arm.
The collision happened on wet road only metres from the North Bonville Road intersection, opposite the Waterside Gardens Caravan Park, at 1.50pm.
Police were late yesterday unable to confirm the ages or sexes of those who died.
The northbound Simes Bros charter coach had 22 passengers aboard. Ambulances ferried 12 students with minor injuries to Coffs Harbour Health Campus. The bus driver, from Lismore, escaped with only a scraped right knee and also went to hospital.
He told reporters at the scene he saw the Tarago 'come out of nowhere' across the road and that he tried to avoid a collision.
"No-one on the coach is seriously injured," Coffs/Clarence local area commander, Acting Superintendent Paul Fehon, said at the crash scene.
Ballina High School had just played Bellingen High at Fernmount's Burdett Park in the AFL under-15s Swan Shield knockout. The bus was apparently headed for McDonald's in Coffs Harbour on the return journey to Ballina when the accident happened.
It is understood senior police at the crash scene contacted the State Government ministry so that arrangements could be put in place to help the students.
The nearby Bonville International Golf Resort was turned into a makeshift safety zone for the shaken students and team officials who didn't need hospital treatment.
A Beaumonts coach arrived about 3.30pm to take them to their families anxiously awaiting their return.
Motorists were delayed for several hours while forensic police, rescue personnel and salvage crews worked at the scene.