Grim task for investigators of car crash that killed six on Stuart Highway near Pine Creek

Investigators have admitted it will be a ‘long process’ to identify the six passengers killed in a car crash due to the severity of the collision. 

A four-wheel drive collided with a road train on the Stuart Highway near a small town in the Katherine region on Friday afternoon.

The six occupants of the Mitsubishi 4WD were killed, including four children.

The driver and passenger of the truck escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police are scrambling to figure out what caused the crash that has become the deadliest collision in the Northern Territory in 16 years.

Investigators admit it will be a ‘long process’ to identify the mangled bodies due to the severity of the crash. 

Investigators face the grim task of identifying the six victims of the Northern Territory’s deadliest road crash in more than 16 years 

‘This was a confronting crash that has resulted in significant loss of life,’ Detective Senior Sergeant Brendan Lindner said.

‘Due to the severe nature of the crash, identification of the deceased is likely to be a long process as we work to bring some closure to the families involved and to understand how the crash occurred.’

Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said on Monday said it would be a significant investigation.

‘We understand they could be a family from the Northern Territory,’ he said on ABC Radio.

‘There’s a very complex and protracted investigation that remains underway to identify who those people are.’

Police commissioner Murphy shared his condolences and heartfelt thanks for the emergency services who were first to the scene of the devastating crash.

‘Our thoughts are with extended family and those people who responded to the incident – the police, the fire service, emergency services, St John, not only (them) but the two surviving men from the truck,’ he said. 

‘Their level of heroism too, because they’ve actually attempted to do everything they could but just couldn’t, because of the fire, save life.

‘They were transported to Katherine District Hospital, treated for some minor injuries, physical injuries, but I imagine the psychological injuries will be long lasting for those (men).’

Authorities received reports of a collision between a truck and car along the Stuart Highway, approximately 12km south of Pine Creek, about 4.15pm.

‘Multiple people within the 4WD are deceased at the scene, with the recovery process commenced this morning,’ NT Police said in a statement on Saturday.

NT Police reopened the Stuart Highway on Sunday after significant delays in the area over the weekend.

Sgt Lindner urged anyone travelling in the area between 2.30pm and 4.45pm on Friday with dash-cam footage to contact police.

Anyone with information on the identity and movements of the 4WD occupants are also urged to come forward.

There have been 19 lives lost on NT roads in 2023.

Territory Expeditions tour driver Daniel Hall spotting the plume of back smoke several kilometres down the highway, prompting him to rush to the scene. 

Police have confirmed that six people including a young child are dead after a four-wheel-drive crashed into a road train on Friday (pictured, the scene of the crash)

Police have confirmed that six people including a young child are dead after a four-wheel-drive crashed into a road train on Friday (pictured, the scene of the crash)

He told NT News that within minutes of the crash other drivers had stopped to coordinate traffic and provide first aid to the driver of the Shaw’s road train.

But no one was able to save those inside the Mitsubishi.

‘Whoever was in that car did not stand a chance at survival or being rescued in any way shape or form,’ Mr Hall said.

‘The entire car was one big ball of fire.

‘Those people, they didn’t stand a chance.’

Two people in the truck managed to escape and were treated for minor injuries at Royal Darwin Hospital. 

Mr Hall said one of the survivors had ‘cuts and bruises all over him’ and a look of ‘total devastation’ in his eyes.

‘As his road train burnt … he had that look on his face that he got away with his life by the skin of his teeth,’ he said.