The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Ivy Jensen and Gus McCub­bing

A PROMIS­ING English crick­eter who had been work­ing in Echuca and play­ing for Kyabram is now in a stable con­di­tion af­ter the ute he was driv­ing on the first day of his new job col­lided head-on with a bus on Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Billy Cook­son, 23, orig­i­nally from Chip­pen­ham, a town in Wilt­shire, was play­ing for the Red­backs as open­ing bats­man and wick­et­keeper.

He had been given a job as a full­time de­liv­ery driver by Kyabram Cricket Club pres­i­dent Tim Nel­son, at Repco Echuca where he is store man­ager.

Billy was tak­ing a tool­box to a Repco client in Co­huna when he crashed.

Mr Nel­son said Billy’s par­ents ar­rived in Melbourne early yes­ter­day morn­ing and were picked up by Echuca Repco staff from the air­port and driven straight to the Royal Melbourne Hospi­tal, where their son has been since be­ing flown from the col­li­sion on Fri­day.

And while Billy had only played two games for Kyabram, Mr Nel­son said he had al­ready made a strong im­pres­sion on the play­ing group and wider com­mu­nity.

“HE COULD talk to any­body and was just so pos­i­tive all the time – so that’s one thing keep­ing our heads up high,” Mr Nel­son said.

“The Fire Bri­gade Cricket Club also knew him quite well, so it’s def­i­nitely rocked ev­ery­one a fair bit. But it doesn’t mat­ter who you are, where you come from, or what you do, ev­ery­one is on the same page with this kind of thing. That’s just the coun­try men­tal­ity.”

Billy was con­scious when emer­gency ser­vices ar­rived at the crash scene but had ex­ten­sive head, ch­est, arm and leg in­juries and went into surgery soon af­ter ar­riv­ing in Melbourne. Mr Nel­son said while he was still heav­ily se­dated on painkillers, Billy is now “head­ing in the right di­rec­tion”.

“He’s in a very stable con­di­tion and you could call him re­spon­sive,” Mr Nel­son said. “When you walk in the room and say his name, he knows you’re there”.

“His right arm and right leg are still ma­jor con­cerns… but com­ing from an in­duced coma and life sup­port only days ago, to where he is now, it’s been huge.”

Po­lice said the V/Line bus (pic­tured), head­ing from Mil­dura to Al­bury, was 2km from Gunbower, on the Echuca side, when the col­li­sion oc­curred on the Mur­ray Val­ley Hwy just af­ter 3pm.

One of the first on scene was Echuca’s Adrian Vanzetta whose quick ac­tions likely saved Billy’s life.

The part-owner of On Time Pest Con­trol was on his way back to Echuca when he came across the hor­rific scene.

“The car was on fire un­der the bon­net and I just thought I’ve got to do some­thing so I grabbed my pump from the truck and hooked it up with wa­ter and started pump­ing,” he said.

“The poor bloke was pretty out of it and his knees were hang­ing out of the car. He wasn’t in a good way.

“I just kept spray­ing. I didn’t even think. It was no big deal. I’m sure any­one else would have done the same thing.”

Adrian said it took about five min­utes to ex­tin­guish the fire be­cause it was so dry.

“If we hadn’t got the fire un­der con­trol, it would have been a disas­ter. Be­cause I think it took them about three-and-a-half hours to get him out of the car,” he said.

Po­lice said it ap­peared the ute had crossed to the wrong side of the road for rea­sons un­known but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cause of the ac­ci­dent was still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Po­lice said it was an ap­palling scene and they were amazed ev­ery­one on the bus es­caped with­out in­jury.

Any­one who wit­nessed the crash or any­one who has in­for­ma­tion about the in­ci­dent can phone Echuca po­lice on 5483 1500 or Crime Stop­pers on 1800 333 000.

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