POLICE have praised the efforts of motorists who used water from a puddle to extinguish a car fire and save the life of a man seriously injured in a smash on the Northern Highway.
Paramedics, SES crews and police were called to the crash about 15 minutes north of Heathcote after the man, 38, from New South Wales collided head-on with a tree about 4pm on Thursday.
Goornong police Leading Senior Constable Darren Scherger said the quick and clever thinking of passing motorists had potentially saved the man's life.
"Passers-by stopped and dialed triple-0, and then helped to put the fire out," he said.
"The fire was in the cabin and they have used their own fire extinguishers and bottles of water to put it out.
"Everything they had available to them they used to put the fire out until we got to the scene.
"They have done a remarkable job and are the reason he is still alive."
Leading Senior Constable Scherger said the man was trapped in the vehicle for just under an hour and suffered injuries to his chest and leg.
He said the man was the sole occupant of the grey Volkswagen Golf and was airlifted to a Melbourne hospital in a serious condition.
An Echuca woman, who was at the scene prior to emergency services arriving, said a group of about six people worked together to save the man.
She said they used blankets, water from drink bottles and a puddle on the side of the road to extinguish the fire despite emergency operators telling them to stay away from the vehicle.
"There were about half a dozen people putting the fire out with water," she said.
"Then a caravan pulled up which had a fire extinguisher and we used that.
"One girl was on the phone to triple-0 and they were saying stay away from the fire.
"Thank goodness there was a puddle."
Leading Senior Constable Scherger said police from Axedale, Goornong and Heathcote attended the incident.
The Northern Highway was blocked in both directions.