A Porsche driver on the run after fleeing the scene of a horror crash that left four police officers dead has been urged to hand himself in.
A female senior constable and three male officers were killed at Kew on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway on Wednesday night after a refrigeration truck ploughed into two police cars and a black Porsche 911 parked in the breakdown lane.
Shattered police colleagues and emergency workers across Australia have since paid tribute to the fallen officers in what is the greatest loss of police life in a single incident in Victoria’s history.
The officers had intercepted the Porsche that was driving at ‘excessive speed’ along the freeway and were preparing to impound the luxury sports car before tragedy struck.
A manhunt is underway for the runaway Porsche driver who fled the scene on foot after the crash, prompting a plea from Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton.
‘I strongly suggest that he get himself down to the nearest police station to present himself,’ Chief Commissioner Ashton told reporters on Wednesday night.
Four police officers were killed when they were struck by a truck (pictured at the tragic scene) in Melbourne, marking the greatest loss of police life in a single incident in Victoria’s history
The truck ploughed into two parked police cars and a black Porsche, which is pictured covered in a blue tarp. The driver of the luxury sports car allegedly fled the scene
The ages of the female senior constable, one male senior constable and two male constables killed have not yet been released.
One of the male constables had recently joined the police force.
The truck driver remains in hospital under police guard.
Chief Commissioner Ashton said detectives were trying to piece together what led to the crash, but labelled the tragedy a ‘crime’.
When asked why homicide detectives were at the scene on Wednesday night, he replied: ‘Those officers (who died) have been a victim of a crime.’
The tragedy has rocked Victoria Police to its core and eclipses the loss of three officers gunned down by bushranger Ned Kelly in the state’s north-east in 1878.
Word quickly spread throughout the force as grieving officers changed their Facebook profile photos to one of a fallen angel in honour of their dead colleagues.
‘It’s absolutely f***ed… Trying to find out exactly what happened… A real horrible and shocking tragedy,’ one shattered officer wrote.
‘No words,’ another posted alongside a photo of the Victoria Police emblem.
Many officers changed their Facebook and Twitter profile photos to a fallen angel after hearing four colleagues had been killed
The tragedy has rocked the Victoria Police
Many of the killed officers’ colleagues changed their Twitter profiles to the same fallen angel picture.
‘To my Victoria Police colleagues, first responders, investigators and most importantly the families of officers- my heart goes out to you all,’ one wrote.
‘This is an incomprehensible tragedy… I have no more words but to say look after each other & reach out to your support networks. Take care.’
Victoria Police was inundated with heartfelt tributes on its social media pages from police stations and fire brigades from interstate and overseas.
‘From a station of only two officers in the Great Southern of WA, to lose four of your finest, our thoughts are with the families, colleagues and greater Victorian police family, and for those who responded be you police, ambulance or firefighters. Rest In Peace comrades,’ Dumbleyung Police tweeted.
SA Metropolitan Fire Service added: The thoughts of all SA Metropolitan Fire Service firefighters and staff are with Victoria Police and the families of the four on duty officers. Devastating news for the close-knit emergency services sector in #Victoria and all loved ones impacted. Sending our love from South Australia.
Victoria Police was inundated with heartfelt tributes from interstate colleagues
The tragedy unfolded just after 5.40pm on the Eastern Highway near the Burke Road exit at Kew.
Prior to the crash, two officers had intercepted the Porsche, which had been speeding on the freeway, and called for backup when they decided to impound the vehicle, with two other members soon arriving.
The refrigerated truck ploughed into the officers shortly afterwards.
The truck driver was taken to hospital under police guard with non life-threatening injuries after he suffered a medical episode. It is not known if he suffered the episode before or after the crash.
Police are waiting for the results of the truck driver’s blood analysis.
‘(The truck) has driven into the Porsche and slammed into the police officers as part of the collision,’ Commissioner Ashton said.
‘It’s not believed he has suffered injury in the accident but has had some sort of medical episode at the scene and has been taken to hospital for medical treatment. We intend him to be there under police guard for some time.’
‘We don’t know at this stage what has caused him to drive that truck into our police members.’
‘When it’s possible for him to be interviewed he will be interviewed.’
‘We don’t know at this stage what has caused him to drive that truck into our police members. We’re still forming that up in terms of why that has occurred.’
Commissioner Ashton said it was a tragic night for police as they try to piece together what happened.
‘I believe this is largest single loss of police life in one incident in the history of Victoria Police,’ he said.
‘There’s an eerie quiet down there [at the scene], everyone down there is feeling it at the moment.
‘It can sometimes seem mundane and then can suddenly seem very very tragic.’
The four officers will unlikely be honoured in a traditional large scale police funeral due to coronavirus restrictions.
Funerals are limited to 10 attendees.
‘If we’re still in restrictions, we won’t be able to have those large scale remembrance ceremonies we traditionally have to honour our police officers,’ Commissioner Ashton said.
Police confirmed one female and three male officers were killed in a horror crash in Melbourne
The crash on Melbourne’s busy Eastern Freeway sparked chaos on Wednesday night
Debris from the fatal crash was scattered along the Eastern Freeway, which remains closed
Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said the deaths have floored the police force.
‘This will be felt in every police station, in every mess room, in every watch-house across the state tonight,’ he told reporters late Wednesday.
‘Those members, today, when they started their shift came to work expecting to protect the community. That much they did do. That much we are proud of them for doing.
‘These police officers were doing something that we do 10 times, 20 times, 30 times a shift – intercepting a motor vehicle on the side of the road, this is the bread and butter of policing,’ he told reporters.
‘This isn’t stuff that you go to do and expect to be killed doing. But each and every time a police officer does that for the next little while, they’ll have this in the back of their minds, there’s no doubt.’
Witnessed described the scene as carnage.
‘There were civilians trying to run around and help, it was horrible,’ one told the Herald Sun.
Dan Smith was heading outbound along the freeway when he saw at flashing lights, least 12 to 14 police cars and several ambulances at the scene.
‘The police members were sprinting from their cars,’ he told the Age.
‘I could see the truck and then I saw the crumpled mess of the Porsche.’
A half-crushed silver highway patrol car was sitting on the grass on the median strip.
It’s understood a semi trailer (pictured) ploughed into two parked police cars and a Porsche
All lanes of the Eastern Freeway are closed due to a fatal crash involving a truck (pictured)
Witnesses described the scene of Wednesday night’s horror freeway crash as carnage
Political leaders have offered their condolences to the fallen officers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison ‘Awful, heart-breaking news that four police officers have been killed while on duty in Melbourne tonight. My deepest sympathies go out to their families, fellow officers and friends at this terrible time,’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese added: ‘Heartbreaking news out of Victoria. These officers were killed while doing their jobs – a terrible reminder of the risks taken by police and emergency workers every single day. My deepest condolences to their families, friends and everyone at Victoria Police.’
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also penned a heartbreaking tribute.
‘Tonight, somewhere in our city, four families’ hearts are breaking. Our hearts are breaking with them,’ he said.
‘We grieve alongside them – just as we grieve with every member of Victoria Police and every member of our emergency services family.
‘In the coming days, formal investigations will tell us why – how – this could possibly have happened.
‘But one thing is already clear:
‘Though we may not yet know their names – we will always call them heroes.
Four police officers were killed in the horror crash. Pictured is the tragic scene
Police minister Lisa Neville later announced that flags will be flown at half-mast at Victoria’s Parliament House on Thursday following the ‘unimaginable tragedy’
‘They [the victims] are Victorian heroes tonight,’ she said.
‘Victoria Police have done an incredible job the past few weeks. Now is the time to really thank them.
‘Just a thank you, a nod, a wave … to send a strong message … a positive message and thank police for the work that they do.
All lanes of the Eastern Freeway were closed between Bulleen Road and the Chandler Highway for most of the night as officers from the homicide squad and major collision units investigated.
The Coroner also visited the scene on Wednesday night.
Photos of the scene show a damaged police highway patrol car and an SUV that had been struck near a large, white semi-trailer.
The black Porsche crumpled beneath the truck was covered in a blue tarp.
Police urge anyone who witnessed or has information in relation to the crash to contact Crime Stoppers.
Traffic was banked up on the Eastern Freeway for more than a kilometre due to the crash