Wife of Gold Bus driver speaks out after jail sentence

The bus crash in 2016. Picture: Jason South.
The bus crash in 2016. Picture: Jason South.

Jack Aston’s boots sit beside the front door of his family’s Brown Hill home. 

There is still a bit of dirt on the tips, a reminder of the normality of walking through the door from work – something the 55-year-old may not be able to do again for more than five years.  

But the boots are not moving today or any time soon.

Jack’s wife Wendy can not bring herself to put them away. 

Jack was sentenced to five years and three months, with a minimum of two-and-a-half years, jail in the County Court on Monday. 

The Gold Bus driver crashed into a low clearance bridge on Montague Street in South Melbourne in February 2016 and was found guilty of six counts of negligently causing serious injury.

His family wept in court, shocked at the sentence they expected to be four months or two years. 

Wendy says Jack will appeal the sentence. 

The family want their loving father and husband home as soon as possible, in time to celebrate his son Ben’s 21st birthday in two years. 

“We are taking it day by day. It is Jack’s birthday on Saturday,” Wendy says.

When people say someone could have died on the bus it would have been him.

Wendy Aston

“We will go to see him tomorrow (Wednesday) and hopefully he will be moved to either Ararat or Castlemaine. He has told them all the things he can do...

“He will keep busy. But for us here it is just a day at a time, getting over his (Jack’s) birthday and Christmas will be hard, but we look at it as another day because he is still here.”

Jack Aston after the crash on February 22 2016. Picture: Jason South

Jack Aston after the crash on February 22 2016. Picture: Jason South

Jack suffered a broken neck in the horrific crash which pushed the top part of the vehicle back to the fifth row of seats.

Daughter Meg Aston says the psychological scars from the traumatic incident run deep. “He was convinced that he had killed people. He didn’t speak for a couple of days,” she says. 

“He was devastated for the people. He thought we were lying to him in hospital... until he had it written to him that everyone was OK.”

Six of Jack’s 14 passengers suffered a range of serious injuries including spine fractures, glass particles in the face, scalp injuries and neck fractures in the crash.

Wendy says Jack and the family are reminded of the terrifying incident every day. 

“You would be amazed how many Gold Buses we see. It’s that reminder. We see them nearly every day.

“Once we were down at Lorne and we saw two Gold Buses coming home,” she says.

“We tried to get away and do as much as we have been able to try to get him right. But then there was the shingles he ended up with last Christmas – it has been tough.

“He did try to go back and drive but just couldn’t do it mentally.” 

Jack Aston after the crash on February 22 2016. Picture: Jason South

Jack Aston after the crash on February 22 2016. Picture: Jason South

Meg says: “it has changed him as a person”.

“He would never say anything, but you could tell (his struggle) in his body language.”

“We knew,” Wendy adds.

“He was one who would always try to work more and you would have to get him to sit down because he would wear himself out mentally and physically to not have to think. He is on medication now as well.”

Judge Bill Stuart acknowledged Jack was remorseful and had excellent rehabilitation prospects during sentencing on Monday.

He dismissed the defense's claim he was confused and unfamiliar with the area.

Character witness, Gold Bus company director Donald McKenzie, told the court Jack was a "good man" and should have been given better warning about the route and the bridge during a plea hearing on December 13.

Wendy says Gold Bus ‘could not have been more supportive’ throughout the process and Jack’s friends and workmates helped him through tough times. 

“We have always said through this it has felt like Ballarat is protecting us,” she says. 

The bus crash in 2016. Picture: Jason South.

The bus crash in 2016. Picture: Jason South.

“It (the crash) has never been something we have hidden, ever. But every time you had something you had to go to for court we were always next to one another to do it and we had people behind us. The hardest part these last four days was trying to be prepared to go yourself. 

“I am lucky the kids are that bit older because they have been amazing. They have been carrying me the last four days. We have got through that together, but it is really hard when you know Jack is struggling and we can’t help, because we know how to pick him up.

“He will miss home. This is where we have been since we were married and we do everything here together.” 

An appeal must be lodged within 28 days from the date of sentence.