The wreckage of a car in a horror crash that left four teenage school friends dead and another fighting for her life has revealed the terrifying extent of the collision.
A red Toyota Corolla was travelling along Wannon-Nigretta Falls Road at Bochara, 320km west of Melbourne, when it veered off the road over the weekend.
Authorities fear the wreckage could have lain unseen for hours on the lonely road before it was discovered and police called to the scene at 9.30am on Saturday.
Four teenagers from Baimbridge College in Hamilton were killed while another was flown to Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in a critical condition.
Emergency services managed to tow the car from the scene at midday on Sunday, revealing a crumpled vehicle with its roof caved in.
Messages were seen written on both the inside and outside of the car – including the tragic words ‘drive safe’ and ‘love people, help people’.
Four teenage school friends are dead after a horror smash on a road in regional Victoria as police investigate how long they lay in the wreckage (pictured) before help arrived
The red Toyota Corolla had messages written on its the seats – including the tragic words ‘drive safe’ and ‘love people, help people’ (pictured)
Police are hoping CCTV footage may shed light on what time the accident happened and how long it was before the crash was spotted and the alarm raised.
Police believe the driver of the car lost control before the vehicle crashed into a tree.
Two males and two females died in the crash. It had earlier been reported that four teenage girls had died, but police later amended the information.
‘Two females and two males, who are all yet to be formally identified, died at the scene,’ a Victoria Police statement read.
‘Another female has been taken to hospital with serious injuries.’
She has been confirmed by an Ambulance Victoria spokesperson as a teenage girl who was flown to the Alfred Hospital with upper body injuries in a critical condition.
Investigators removed the wreckage of the car on a truck at around 12pm on Sunday.
Officers believe the five occupants of the car were locals to the area from nearby Hamilton, 11km from the site of the crash.
‘Hamilton is a very close-knit community, and there’s five people involved in this and all their families and all their friends,’ Victoria Police Sergeant Ryan Nelson told reporters.
‘It’s going to hit the town really hard.’
According to the 2021 census, 10,346 people live in Hamilton, with Bochara home to just 84 people.
Emergency services (pictured) were called to the scene at Bochara, three-and-a-half hours west of Melbourne, shortly after 9.30am on Saturday morning
The tragedy happened on Wannon-Nigretta Falls Road in country Victoria (pictured)
Sgt Nelson described the scene as horrific and said police wanted to give people answers about what happened.
They hope surveillance footage from the nearby Nigretta Falls tourist location may show the vehicle passing among the overnight traffic and indicate when the crash happened.
Police cordoned off the area to allow major collision unit detectives to investigate the crash.
The investigators left the scene at around 1pm on Sunday, but the road remained closed.
The Southern Grampians Shire will temporarily reduce the speed from 100km/h once the road reopens.
Locals said the single lane road is notorious in the area.
Vehicles must pull over onto the verge to pass each other, but many still hurtle down at the 100km/h speed limit or more, according to some residents – though there is nothing to suggest speed was a factor is this case.
Southern Grampians Shire Mayor David Robertson described the crash as a parent’s worst nightmare.
‘This is horrific right across the community,’ he said. ‘The whole community will feel the impact of this for a long time to come.’
Mr Robertson said the teenagers ‘would be known right across the town.
‘Even if they don’t know the children, they would know the parents or the grandparents or their brother or sisters.’
The mayor said the crash happened ‘somewhere between 4am and 9.30am on Saturday morning on a lonely bit of road’.
He said safety is a big issue in the area due to the condition of the roads and wildlife.
‘I’ve been here for 45 years and there’s more and more of wildlife on the road, it’s getting to a point it’s very dangerous’ he told the Herald Sun.
Hamilton local Minnie Jackson said she went to school with some of the victims, who she believed were a year or two below her.
‘It was pretty upsetting,’ she told the ABC.
She said community was full of ‘really lovely people’ who would band together in the wake of the tragedy.
Mr Robertson said a trauma team provided by the federal government is due to arrive on Monday.
On Sunday morning, children and families attended a confirmation service at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church.
The congregation held a moment of silence and said prayers for the victims of the crash and their loved ones.
‘Let their families have peace and strength and support around them,’ Father Patrick Mugavin said.
Bochara, with a population of less than a hundred people, is located about three-and-a-half hours west of Melbourne
Investigators removed the wreckage of the car on a truck (pictured) at around 12pm on Sunday
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said his thoughts were with the family and friends of the victims.
‘On behalf of all Victorians I want to extend my deepest sympathies, my thoughts and best wishes,’ he said.
‘I’m limited in what I can say. Crash scene investigators and Victoria Police will be looking at this.
‘This will be an incredibly difficult time for those families and friends, and people who love those who have been caught up in this, and we send our best wishes in what will be an incredibly challenging time.
‘People should be assured there will be a full investigation … so we can try and understand what’s happened here,’ he said.
The police have urged any witnesses to contact them.
So far this year, 128 people have died on Victoria’s roads, compared with 96 during the same period last year.