The collision propelled the truck cab and bus 100m into an adjoining paddock, while the trucks trailer lay wrecked on Reid Rd.
The impact flung 15-year-old Jody Rua from one end of the bus to the other. Shaken, he set to work helping injured children, aged 5 to 17, from Taneatua Primary School, Trident High School and Whakatane High.
Most of the 35 children on the bus were taken to hospital, some with serious injuries.
The truck driver was airlifted to Tauranga Hospital and last night was in a stable condition. The bus driver escaped serious injury.
Jody Rua said the bus was slowing down to drop him off outside the driveway to his home. “Then there was just a big bang and the logging truck had rammed us into the middle of the paddock,” he told the New Zealand Herald Newspaper last night.
“As we were pulling over slowly, the bus driver started saying, ‘S**t! s**t!’ and the logging truck just smashed into us from behind.
“I was at the front, waiting to get off, then when it hit us, I went flying backwards. I opened my eyes and it was really quiet, then everyone started crying.”
Everywhere Jody looked, children were bleeding and crying, and pieces of the bus and truck were strewn across the paddock.
“Some of the kids looked like they had been attacked by sharks. The kids were just cut up in pieces – most of them couldn’t feel it and were walking around. I was just freaking out looking at them. There was a girl in the middle of the road with shark-bit legs.”
Jody said he instinctively went to help other children to get off the bus.
“I gathered the kids who weren’t injured together and then there were a few kids who were trapped in their seats, so we helped get them off.”
One boy from Taneatua Primary was hanging out of a window, begging for someone to help him. “He was completely cut up. I tried to help him, but I didn’t know what to do.”
Jody then ran across the road to get a first-aid kit from his aunt’s house. “I just did what I could, but there were lots of people who were helping out.”
Another schoolgirl, Hinemiaharo Carroll, told the Herald how there was “blood everywhere” when she got to the wreck.
At a press conference last night, Inspector Sandra Venables, the Eastern Bay of Plenty area police commander, said 36 people received medical treatment in Whakatane, Rotorua and Tauranga hospitals. The injuries ranged from minor to critical. The critically hurt 8-year-old was shifted from Rotorua Hospital to the Starship in Auckland.
A 6-year-old girl who was seriously injured is now in a stable condition in Rotorua Hospital.
Newswarped thinks it is fantastic the way the locals rallied around to help the emergency services in such difficult circumstances in a remote part of the country.