Five people are dead, including two children, after a BMW drove into a crowded outdoor area at the Royal Hotel in Daylesford around 6pm on Sunday evening.
Established in 1856 in the centre of the small tourist-based town about 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, the Hotel is a popular destination for locals and visitors.
Police report a white BMW X5 was travelling south-west on Albert St, when it mounted a kerb and drove across a grassed area outside the venue, through a beer garden set up with a lot of tables and chairs, where it “collided with those tables and those people.”
One witness reported the car was travelling at a normal speed toward the roundabout, then suddenly accelerated.
Daylesford police station is located only 130 metres away, and two officers heard the crash and ran to the site, becoming the first emergency workers to arrive.
There were multiple bodies in the vicinity, and members of the public rushed to provide help and perform CPR.
Being the unofficial long weekend before Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, a public holiday in Victoria, the pub was reportedly filled with hundreds of patrons.
In the moments following the crash police and bystanders rushed to help, and sheets were laid over bodies. People were visibly traumatised.
Four Air Ambulance helicopters were sent to the town to transport critically injured people to hospital. Later that night Superintendent John Fitzpatrick confirmed four people had died at the scene and a girl later died in hospital.
The victims and survivors were said to be three separate groups, all visiting the tourist destination.
One group was a Tarneit man (38) and his son (11), who both died at the scene, while his wife (36) and other son (6) were injured.
Another group had a Point Cook woman (44) and man (30) die at the scene, and the woman’s daughter (9) died later from her injuries.
In the third group, a woman from Kyneton (43) and man from Cockatoo (38) were injured, along with a baby boy, who has since been transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital and is said to be in a stable condition.
The driver of the car was a 66-year-old man from Mt Macedon with no prior convictions. He was breath tested at the scene and returned a reading of zero alcohol. He received treatment at Ballarat Hospital for shock and minor injuries.
On Monday sombre community members attended the site to lay flowers, and adjacent businesses remained closed.
Crash reconstruction investigators were onsite from Sunday night, trying to determine the speed of the vehicle and cause of the accident. Police have been canvassing the area for CCTV footage.
“The job our first responders faced last night would have been horrible and confronting,” said Hepburn Shire Mayor Brian Hood.
“The last 24 hours shows us how fragile life can be.”