Crews and passengers were stuck after buses froze on Mt Hotham

For six hours Chris Bonacci, his workers and Alpine Spirit Coach passengers were stranded in blizzard-like conditions after their buses and phones froze.

Mr Bonacci said in 20 years working in the snow he’s never seen conditions like those that hit Mt Hotham on Sunday and Monday. 

He initially went up the mountain to assist another company’s bus that had broken down, only to realise his own coaches were in trouble.

“Our bus with people on board stopped about 8am, for what should have been a 10-minute fix because the brake was frozen,” he said.

“We started to chisel ice off the wheel to get to the brakes and we tried for two or three hours.

“It got to the point where my colleague and I were mentally and physically exhausted, I rang my wife about 11 and said I’m scared I don’t know what to do, we’d done everything.

“We had no more energy and were absolutely drained.”

But Mr Bonacci didn’t know, the six-hour ordeal had just begun. 

The coaches’ hydraulic lifts, electrical and air-control systems froze, as did his phone.

Mr Bonacci and police officers present called State Emergency Services, as other buses and snow ploughs were unable to help in the severe weather. 

He said across Sunday and Monday he was on the mountain helping and stuck for about 36 hours and saw many things he’d never seen before.

“Our car door froze up and locked us out,” he said.

“Other buses were sliding backwards and drivers were losing their nerves.

“It was a sheer blizzard and the snow was like ice hitting your face.”

“A snow plough got bogged and when we saw the snow plough bogged we knew it was a big issue.”

After calling the State Emergency Services Mr Bonacci and others met the crew at the snowline where they fitted heavy-duty snow chains to two four wheel drives. 

Over the next six hours in treacherous conditions, about 40 people and staff were driven from the frozen bus to safety, in four two-hour round trips.

Mr Bonacci said the State Emergency Service crews, police, resort management, ground staff, HOYS Ski centre, Stadleman's road maintenance team and the Dinner Plain Shuttle Bus service all worked together fantastically to ensure passengers were safe and the rescue was as quick as possible.