The couple at the centre of the Hunter Valley wedding where 10 guests died in a horror bus crash have been seen for the first time, attending their friend’s funeral.
Angus Andrew Craig, 28, was farewelled in a service held at Worrigee in Nowra, the first funeral held following the crash in NSW’s Hunter Valley earlier this month.
Mitchell Gaffney, and his new wife Maddy Edsell, were one of the hundreds of mourners who attended Mr Craig’s service which took place two weeks since his death. Another 700 people watched the livestream of the funeral, with people from the United Kingdom and Cyprus paying their respects.
Mr Craig grew up on the south coast, but moved to Singleton with his job at BHP after finishing university. It was also where he lived with Mr Gaffney.
Mourners, including Mr Craig’s friends from high school, university and work colleagues, spilt out of the main chapel, with crowds gathered at all three entrances of the building to farewell the 28-year-old.
Instead of flowers, attendees were asked to consider making a donation to the Cancer Research charity of their choosing.
After the service, Ms Edsell and Mr Gaffney were seen leaving the chapel holding hands. Before that, they were seen speaking to attendees and family members by Mr Craig’s hearse.
Fellow victims of the bus tragedy were also acknowledged during the emotional ceremony. Mourners were invited to stand for a minute of silence in honour of the nine other people who died in the horror bus crash, as well as the many more who were injured.
“We express and send sincere compassion and love to all of those on the bus, everyone involved in the wedding and affected by that tragedy on that night,” said celebrant Narelle Harding.
A notice of Mr Craig’s funeral celebrated him as an “adored son, much loved brother and brother-in-law and beloved partner of Isabella”.
Leaning against Mr Craig’s casket was a surfboard – a testament to his love of surfing and the ocean.
Mr Craig had only recently moved in with his partner, known as Bella, as he continued to work as a fly-in fly-out worker at Blackwater in Queensland.
She shared how she was “incredibly heartbroken” about losing the love of her life.
“It’s so hard to put into words the immeasurable impact Angus had on my life and even harder to accept the fact we’ve lost such a beautiful, kind and exuberant soul,” Bella said.
“He was open minded and curious, he was up for any adventure no matter how quirky.
“It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the bright, thoughtful and generous person he was.”
Bella said her favourite day would always be Thursday, because that’s when she knew Mr Craig was returning from his job after working away.
She said he’d told her when she was feeling sad that “tomorrow will always be better”.
“When I’m feeling sad, when my emotions feel overwhelming and the world feels a bit dull, I’ll remind myself that tomorrow will be better,” Bella said.
“I will smile and I will laugh, I will admire every sunset and every nice view. I will remember I’m forever a better person for having loved and been loved by you Angus.”
His sister Georgia, whose first child is due in two weeks, shared how much her younger brother will remain in their hearts.
“How cruel is this loss,” she said.
Standing alongside her parents, Georgia said her brother was a “responsible” man who always cared about others above himself.
“He was working hard, thankfully also enjoying a good social life,” she said.
“He was making plans for the future with his partner Bella.
“He’s with us when we say goodnight to him in the evening and he is with us when we tell him we love him.”
Mr Craig’s childhood friend since the age of two, Shaun Cunningham also shared his memories, describing his late friend as a caring jokester. He was one of four pallbearers, who carried Mr Craig’s casket to the hearse.
“I’d always pictured us in our nineties, racing out motorised scooters around the nursing home,” he said.
“You are and will forever be my best friend.”
Despite the sombre environment, Mr Cunningham’s anecdotes of their 26-year friendship drew several chuckles from the crowd.
“On an old phone I had a note that was labelled “Dumbs–t Angus Says” this was unfortunately lost on that phone. But there is one I do remember,” he said.
“We were driving along a country road coming back from a 21st in Wagga. You were staring out the window and you said: ‘I would hate to be a horse, it’s so cold outside’.
“I just looked at you and smiled and laughed. You had such kind heart and a beautiful soul.”
Ms Harding said Mr Craig’s friends and family will have each other to lean on during the difficult path to grief.
“I was blessed to have watched Angus grow and mature into a beautiful young man,” Ms Harding said.
She said Angus’ parents had “taught Angus to be strong and resilient now they need to live by that same motto.”
Friends and family shared their memories of the “adventurous” Mr Craig on his funeral notice, who will be “missed so much”.
Mr Craig’s grandmother, Brenda who is based in the UK, said the tragic death “feels like a bad dream”.
“You will never be forgotten, your sweet kind nature,” she wrote.
Chloe Hammered said “Angus was such a genuine, fun-loving and compassionate person and it was so nice to know after all these years he was still just as bubbly and kind”.
Jess Wray said will do her best to honour her friend’s memory.
“My heart broke when I heard of your passing and I’m still in utter disbelief that such a beautiful soul’s life could be cut so short,” she wrote.
“Just know that your energy still lives on and I will always dance that bit harder, hold people that bit closer and enjoy each and every single day because of you. Rest in peace, Angus, we all love you and will never forget you.”
Ten wedding guests were killed on June 11 when the bus taking them to their accommodation rolled while driving through a roundabout in the Hunter Valley about 11.30pm.
A further 25 passengers were sent to hospital after the bus crashed onto its side and on top of a guardrail, with crash investigators still piecing together what went wrong.
Driver Brett Andrew Button, 58, has been charged with 10 counts of dangerous driving occasioning death – drive manner dangerous, and negligent driving causing death.
Police will allege in court that Mr Button entered the roundabout too fast, causing the vehicle to fall on its side.
He appeared in Cessnock Magistrate’s Court on June 13 and was granted strict conditional bail.
More to come.