Groom who lost 10 friends in wedding bus crash speaks out at funeral
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A groom who devastatingly lost 10 friends in a wedding bus crash has spoken out at the funeral.
Newly wed Mitchell Gaffney is grieving the loss of 10 of his nearest and dearest, who all tragically died on his wedding night three weeks ago on 11 June.
Gaffney has since broken his silence on the heartbreaking ordeal during his 'extremely loveable' friend Zachary Bray’s funeral, which took place in Sydney, Australia, yesterday (4 July).
Bray, along with nine other of Gaffney's friends, died in the crash near Greta in NSW’s Hunter Valley last month following a reception at Wandin Valley Estate.
The bus was transporting 35 guests from the wedding of Gaffney and his bride, Madeleine Edsell.
During Bray's funeral service, which was held at Macquarie Park, the 29-year-old was remembered as a beloved brother and son who triumphantly beat bowel cancer.
Gaffney took the time to offer a heartfelt tribute to his pal, who he first met on the football field after playing for the same AFL club, the Singleton Roosters.
He said: "Although you’ll never get the chance to put the jumper on again, you’ll always be there by our side."
Gaffney also explained exactly why Bray was endearingly known to his football mates as 'Labrador' or 'Lab'.
"He became affectionately known as the labrador, or lab, as they're affectionate dogs, they're extremely loveable but no matter what they do, they do it with that big goofy smile," Gaffney said.
Carrying on the footy references, Gaffney went on to call Bray the ultimate team player, who 'had the ability to make everyone feel included'.
He continued: "We will forever cherish the memories that we are lucky enough to hold together."
Other tributes from Bray's friends, family and loved ones also poured in during the funeral service.
His girlfriend, Georgie Copeland, said: "My heart hurts, I can’t deny it. But I know that it hurts deeply because it was deeply real."
The man's mother, Jacqui Varasdi, went on to call being a parent to Bray her 'greatest achievement'.
She added, before saying one last final goodbye through their special song 'You Are My Sunshine': "And to see you here, laying in this box, just doesn’t make any sense.
"The last time we spoke was the day before you left this earth and I can still hear the happiness in your voice and picture the huge smile on your face whilst you talked excitedly about Mitch and Maddie's wedding."
Bray, a pilot, was also commemorated by his father Adam who called his son a 'uniquely genuine soul'.
"Over and out," his father said in farewell message. "Rest in peace, my beautiful boy."
The father recently recalled the exact moment when he was stopped by police after trying to look for his son in the bus which had rolled over on its side.
He told 9News: "I just said, 'my son's on that bus', and they said to me, 'If your son is on that bus, honestly you don't want to see him'."
The heartbroken father continued: "I just sat on the ground, on my own, and broke down, for an hour."
The bus driver has since been identified as Brett Andrew Button and was granted bail a few days after the crash on 13 June. He was charged with 10 counts of dangerous driving and one count of negligent driving occasioning death.
The 58-year-old is set to face Newcastle Local Court on 9 August.
Over AUD$1 million has since been raised for the 'Hunter Valley (NSW) Bus Tragedy Fund (RABS)' which was set up 'to provide benevolent relief and support to survivors, victims, and their immediate families from the events of the fatal bus accident'.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677