A top cop has blasted rumours about police being delayed in reaching the scene of a horror crash where five people were killed.
Emergency services were called to Royal Hotel in Daylesford, north of Melbourne, after a white BMW X5 crashed into the busy venue and struck patrons just after 6pm on Sunday, killing five people and injuring several others.
During a press conference on Monday, Victoria Police chief commissioner Shane Patton rejected reports that officers were delayed in reaching the scene or that members of the public were left banging on the door of the police station trying to get help.
“That‘s totally incorrect,” he told reporters on Monday.
“The station was staffed, two police officers heard the collision and as I understand ran to the scene, it’s a matter of a couple of 100 meters or so, and they were some of the first officers on the scene.
“And they did exactly what they’re trained to do and we’re very proud.”
The pub was filled with hundreds of patrons in the hours before the crash due to the unofficial long weekend before Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup public holiday.
The area, which also includes an ice-cream shop, was set up post-Covid with lots of tables and chairs.
Images taken at the scene on Monday show the chaos that remains, with damaged picnic tables still covered in glasses and water jugs.
Droves of community members, some tearful, attended the site of the incident to lay flowers through Monday morning.
Several businesses adjacent to the scene made the decision to remain closed on Monday, despite the increased presence of visitors in the popular tourist town over the Melbourne Cup weekend.
Jenna Acquarola and James Deriu attended the scene to lay flowers on Monday morning.
“Just knowing that that happened... it’s so sad for Daylesford,” Ms Acquarola said.
“We were here five minutes after it... and we saw it and it was just horrible.”
Mr Deriu said bystanders who were first on the scene were visibly “traumatised”.
“They were beside themselves,” he said.
Ms Acquarola said in the moments following the incident the area was flooded with police officers and bystanders rushing to help, while multiple white sheets had been laid over bodies on the road.
“It was a beautiful night, it was warm, the sun was going down,” she said of the busy area.
“And it was instantly just destroyed.”
The intersection around the crash site has remained taped off to the public.
Superintendent John Fitzpatrick confirmed on Sunday night about 11pm four people had died at the scene – two men and a woman and a six-year-old boy.
A fifth, a teenage girl, later died in hospital.
“I haven’t seen anything this drastic for a long time,” he said.
“Any time you have five people die at a particular scene, it’s horrible.
“There are families that have got loved ones that are no longer going to be around.”
“We don’t like to see anyone lose their life but to see a child – you don’t ever want to see anything like that.”
“The car crashed into an area that has been set up really post-Covid with lots of tables and chairs, not just for the Royal Hotel, there’s an ice-cream shop there as well, so there (would have been) a lot of families. And it was a really warm night, and we’ve got a long weekend … so it was pretty busy last night,” she told ABC Radio on Monday morning.
“People have lost their lives, and their families’ lives have changed forever.
“It will really have shocked a lot of people, and I think we’re really only just be coming to terms with what happened today.”
Superintendent Fitzpatrick said the white BMW was travelling southwest down Albert St in the town when it mounted a kerb and drove through the beer garden.
He said the driver of the car, a 66-year-old Mt Macedon man, was receiving treatment at Ballarat Hospital.
“We are waiting to speak to him,” he said.
He said investigators were still trying to work out the cause of the tragedy.
“It’s a very complex scene,” he said.
Superintendent Fitzpatrick said investigators were also still working to identify if any of the victims were related to one another.
Crash reconstruction investigators were on scene Sunday night trying to determine the speed of the car, Superintendent Fitzpatrick said.
He said the police would canvass the area for CCTV footage.
He said emergency services personnel would be offered counselling to help them process the “confronting” scene.
A woman from a business next to the Royal Daylesford told NCA NewsWire she and her staff saw some of the bodies on the pavement.
“We’re all pretty shocked,” she said.
“It’s pretty bad, I’ve never seen anything so traumatic in my life.”
She said she had closed her business and would keep it closed on Monday.
Another woman who watched the nightmare unfold described it as “horrifying”.
“There were bodies everywhere, it was horrifying,” she said.
“I watched the whole crash. The car went up into the sky. I thought it was just dust. It’s only now I know it was bodies.”
An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said paramedics flew four patients to Melbourne for treatment, including one child.
The child, a three-year-old boy, was flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a serious condition.
Two adults were flown to Royal Melbourne Hospital and one adult was flown to the Alfred Hospital, all with serious injuries.
Paramedics have also taken two patients to Ballarat and one patient to Royal Melbourne.
The pub was busy with hundreds of patrons in the hours before the crash due to the unofficial long weekend before Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup public holiday.
Debris and wreckage could be seen scattered around the crash zone.
Jesse Leith, who owns a cafe and bar nearby on Vincent St, described the scene as horrific. He heard commotion in the street immediately after the crash.
“There was yelling and an eruption of noise in the street,” he said.
Mr Leith closed his business early following the crash and said many others had done the same. He said the mood was sombre among the business owners and workers still on the street.
“We’ve been saying how no one remembers anything like this happening in Daylesford,” he said. “It’s a shock for a small town like this.”
The front of the BMW is crushed and the bumper is almost torn off.
Another witness to the horror said she saw people sitting at tables in the sun just before the tragedy.
“They were having a wonderful time. It’s so sad to hear this,” she wrote online.
Four Air Ambulance helicopters were deployed to the town fly critically injured people to hospital.
“Emergency services are currently at the scene of a serious crash in Vincent St, Daylesford,” Victoria Police said.
“As emergency services need access to the scene we ask that members of the public avoid the area. Police are putting diversions in place.”
The Royal Hotel, located in the centre of town, was built in 1856 and has remained a popular venue for locals and visitors.
It offers accommodation and indoor and outdoor dining.
A worker at a nearby restaurant said the car involved was “messed up”.
“There are a lot of people outside,” she said.
Daylesford is a small town about 100km north west of Melbourne.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, whose Ballarat electorate takes in Daylesford, has sent her condolences to those caught up in the tragedy.
“My thoughts are with all those at the scene, their friends and families and the broader Daylesford community,” she posted to X on Sunday evening.
“Please follow all the advice from emergency services as crews undertake their work.”
Hepburn Shire Mayor Brian Hood said the hotel was typically busy with patrons, particularly on a long weekend.
“I can only imagine there would be a lot of people sitting out there. There are a lot of tables and chairs,” he said.
Mr Hood said he was unaware of any other crashes at that Vincent St roundabout.
“I’m not aware of any previous accidents there. There certainly hasn’t been any recently,” he said.
Mr Hood said the location was a busy intersection where drivers tended to slow down.
“It’s a very built-up area. All four entrances and exits into the roundabout are busy streets, and it’s right in the middle of town,” he said.
“Typically, people are travelling at very low speed when they approach it.”