By CRAIG McTEAR
FOUR people are dead and another badly injured after their Toyota Tarago slammed head-on into a coach load of Ballina school children on the Pacific Highway at Bonville yesterday.
It is believed the sole survivor from the southbound van is a 15-year-old girl who suffered a serious head injury and a fractured arm.
The horror smash 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 age or sex of those who died.
The northbound Simes Bros charter coach had 22 on board. Ambulances ferried 12 students with minor injuries to Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
The coach driver, from Lismore, was taken to hospital suffering a scraped right knee.
He said 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 occurred.
It is understood senior police 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 did not require hospital treatment.
A Beaumonts coach arrived about 3.30pm to take them to their families anxiously awaiting their return.
North-bound and south-bound highway lanes were opened alternately to control the heavy flow of late after- noon traffic, which was at some stages banked up for seven or more kilometres either side of the accident scene.
Motorists were delayed for several hours while forensic police, rescue personnel and salvage crews worked at the scene.
A report is being prepared for the Coroner.