Five people – including two children – who were killed after a car crashed into the beer garden of a pub in Daylesford in rural Victoria were members of two “family groups” who were visiting the area, police say.
Just after 6pm on Sunday, a white BMW SUV mounted the kerb and hit patrons on the front lawn of the Royal Daylesford hotel, police said.
The Victorian chief police commissioner, Shane Patton, on Monday said four victims died at the scene. The victims include two men, believed to be aged in their 30s, a woman believed to be aged in her 40s, and a boy.
A female child, reportedly a teenager, was flown to the Alfred hospital in Melbourne where she later died on Sunday evening.
“There were, in essence, two … different family groups that were known to each other who were significantly involved and impacted by this,” Patton said.
The victims are yet to be formally identified.
Five people were taken to hospital with a range of injuries, including a boy, believed to be aged 6, who is in a stable condition at the Royal Children’s hospital. Police said a 35-year-old woman is in a serious condition in the intensive care unit at the Royal Melbourne hospital.
A 43-year-old woman and a 38-year-old man, flown to Royal Melbourne hospital, are understood to be stable, Patton said. An 11-month-old baby was flown to Ballarat Base hospital and is also in a stable condition.
Patton said the families were “visitors just going about their everyday life, just enjoying themselves on a beautiful Sunday afternoon”.
“It is an absolute tragedy,” he said.
The driver of the BMW, a 66-year-old man from Mount Macedon, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The driver was breath tested and did not have alcohol in his system, Patton said. The driver’s blood tests will also be analysed.
Police from the major collision investigation unit are expected to interview the man on Monday afternoon.
Patton said it was too early to determine if speed was a factor in the fatal crash.
He paid tribute to the first responders on the scene, saying they would carry the scene with them for “many years”.
“It may haunt them forever,” he said.
“It’s one of the most confronting scenes, I’ve been told, that experienced officers have been to.”
The Victoria Ambulance’s regional director, Trevor Weston, told Nine’s Today show emergency crews had been confronted with “an extremely chaotic scene”.
He said members of the public had done a “fantastic job” to help the injured until ambulance paramedics arrived. “We had about seven ambulances and four ambulance helicopters dispatched and conveyed those patients off to hospital,” Weston said.
He told reporters that the injuries were “quite traumatic for a number of those patients”.
Daylesford was a close-knit community, he said, and some of the initial crews were from the area. “You never want to respond to any incident like this but certainly not in your home town,” Weston said.
The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, thanked those who helped victims – including emergency services workers – at the scene of the “horrific” crash.
“My thoughts are with all those injured, and with the friends and family of those who have tragically died,” Allan said on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday morning.
The Hepburn shire mayor, Brian Hood, said Daylesford would have been crowded on Sunday, with many people enjoying the warm evening over the unofficial Melbourne Cup long weekend. “This will send shock waves through the community for some time,” he told ABC TV.
The federal infrastructure minister, Catherine King, whose Ballarat electorate includes Daylesford, asked the community to follow advice from emergency services as crews carry out their work.
“My thoughts are with all those at the scene, their friends and families and the broader Daylesford community,” she said on X.