Creswick woman Carmel Mitchell confirmed as Avoca bus crash victim

UPDATE: The woman who was tragically killed in a bus rollover near Avoca on Saturday has been confirmed as Mt Xavier bowler Carmel Mitchell. 

Mt Xavier bowler Carmel Mitchell was tragically killed in a bus accident on Saturday.  Picture: Kate Healy

Mt Xavier bowler Carmel Mitchell was tragically killed in a bus accident on Saturday. Picture: Kate Healy

The 71-year-old Creswick resident was one of 29 people aboard the bus which was making its way back to Ballarat from Mildura. 

Mt Xavier Bowling Club president Gerard Dooley said the entire association was in a state of “extreme sadness”.

“We’ve lost one of our members and half a dozen have spent time in hospital, so it’s an incredibly sad time for our club and for lawn bowls as a whole,” Mr Dooley said.  “Carmel was a very proactive participant and she had extremely strong organisational skills and was one of the key organisers of this trip.” 

Mrs Mitchell had served two stints as Mt Xavier ladies president and was club champion in 2011. 

She was also a prolific member of the Creswick Lions Club, serving as president, secretary and treasurer over more than 30 years of involvement. 

Creswick Lions Club secretary Pat Tacey described Mrs Mitchell as a “wholehearted contributor to everything she did”. 

Police and SES workers inspect the bus near Avoca. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Police and SES workers inspect the bus near Avoca. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

“People are in a state of disbelief that this could happen to someone who has been an integral part of our community for 40 years,” Mr Tacey said.  “She was always friendly and approachable and was a real giver to the community.” 

Mrs Mitchell was also well known throughout the community for running Mitch’s clothing store in Creswick for more than 20 years. 

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Mr Mitchell said the pair had been married for 48 years. 

"We are pretty shattered at the moment," he said.  "She had a love of bowls. She organised this trip up to Mildura for the last 10 years. They have gone every year, had wonderful times and this has bloody happened and absolutely destroyed us."

"She was a lovely, outgoing person and had a big group of good friends. She was a pretty popular person."

Carmel Mitchell with husband Graeme

Carmel Mitchell with husband Graeme

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Acting Senior Sergeant Mark Amos said Mr Mitchell had “ probably lost the single most important thing in his life aside from his children”. 

As a sign of respect, Ballarat District Bowls Division called off all competitions scheduled for Monday.  

The division was set to hold a meeting on Sunday night to discuss ways to support the Ballarat bowling community. 

Mrs Mitchell leaves behind three children and seven grandchildren.  

EARLIER:

A woman in her 70s remains in a critical condition at The Alfred hospital following a bus accident near Avoca on Saturday which claimed the life of a Creswick woman. 

Emergency crews including three ambulance helicopters were called in to the scene along the Sunraysia Highway about 500 metres north of Stawell Avoca Road just after 3pm. 

Police said the driver lost control before rolling down an embankment, snapping nearby tree branches and flipping the vehicle on its side.  Police and SES workers were seen inspecting the inside of the vehicle which its front windscreen knocked out.

Picture: 9 News

Picture: 9 News

About 30 people were travelling on the bus, which was heading back to Ballarat from Mildura, where a group of bowls players had been competing in a tournament. 

A relative of a passenger told The Courier their family member immediately called after the impact and said “people were hanging from their seats with their seat belts”. 

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Acting Senior Sergeant Mark Amos said while police were still working to establish what caused the bus to veer off the road, seat belts had certainly prevented further serious injuries. 

The bowlers had been competing in the Dot Jenkinson Ladies Pairs competition at clubs around Mildura.  

Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

The competitors were from 12 of the 24 clubs across the Ballarat District Bowls Division.  “We're devastated by the news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the bowling community,” BDBD chairman Sandra Chapman told The Courier. 

Two passengers were flown to The Alfred in Melbourne in a critical condition, while another passenger was flown to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a serious condition with chest injuries. 

A further 13 passengers were taken to the Ballarat Base Hospital by road ambulance, one critical and another who who was transferred to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.  

Nine of the passengers remain in the hospital in a stable condition.  One of the women at The Alfred has had her condition downgraded to serious but stable while one other passenger who was taken to hospital in Bendigo in a serious condition has since been discharged.

Another 11 people were taken to the Avoca Senior Citizens Centre for monitoring but were uninjured. 

Speaking to reporters at the crash scene, Inspector Nick Finnegan described the incident as “chaotic”.

Inspector Finnegan described the vehicle as a 52-seat coach and said the driver was among those conveyed to the Ballarat Base. 

“It was quite confronting when police arrived … you see a bus that has the capacity to fit 52 people and straight away you think the worst,” Inspector Finnegan said. 

“I’d just reinforce to everyone, take care on our roads.”