MESSAGE WALL: Leave a tribute for the crash victims
UPDATE THURSDAY 4.10PM:
The crash site where Echuca father Nick Mongta and his three mates lost their lives on Wednesday was reduced to scattered fragments by the time his aunt and cousin arrived to lay a bouquet.
"Very eerie walking on this ground," aunt Pamela Reade said at the scene on Thursday. "You can smell the car fumes."
There's a damaged post at the section of a steel rope barrier where Nick Mongta's silver 2001 Holden V8 SS Commodore made contact, becoming airborne before striking a tree roof-first and bending in two.
Mr Mongta and Joshua Taylor, Corey Bray and Chris Reddin, aged 19 to 28, all died here, on the Northern Highway just south of Pyalong, about 6.30am on Wednesday.
They were returning to the Echuca area after driving to Melbourne on Tuesday for belated Australia Day celebrations, it has been reported.
"I remember when Nicholas was born, I was changing his nappies and everyone was over the moon," Ms Reade said, speaking at the crash site.
"He was a beautiful young boy, gorgeous eyes, green eyes like his dad, loved his car, loved life. It's come to a sad ending like this. It's shocking - we're all devastated, we've got a lot to get through yet."
Tarah Reade left a bouquet of flowers as a tribute to her cousin.
She remembers riding motorcycles with him when they were growing up in Echuca together.
"It's devastating," she said, staring at the wreckage strewn through the high grass on the road side: a piece of dashboard, metal shards, a splattered speaker.
Something else caught the eye of Mr Mongta's cousin: "It's his wallet, it's Nicholas' wallet," Tarah Reade says, holding up a Quiksilver wallet and flipping it open to reveal a probationary licence with her cousin's face beaming back at her.
"I told you he was a good looking boy," the aunt said. They take the wallet and the car's intact rearview mirror with them to give to his father.
UPDATE THURSDAY 7.55AM: Victoria Police has confirmed that a canister containing a small amount of a white substance was located at the crash scene and will undergo forensic testing.
A small amount of drug paraphernalia was also located.
UPDATE 9.37PM The crash victims have been identified as Chris Reddin, Joshua Taylor, Nick Mongta and Corey Bray.
Friends and family have remembered the victims as outgoing young men whose deaths have left many shocked and heartbroken.
Tributes have flowed for the four men, who died when their car became airborne, ploughed into a tree and was severed in two on the Northern Highway on Wednesday.
Mr Reddin was a 22-year-old father of a baby boy.
Grieving relatives said he was a "beautiful person" who would be deeply missed.
"He was always so good to me, and always so loving to everyone," said Jayden Reddin.
"There are a lot of people who are extremely sad today ... crying and devastated," he said. "This is something we will have to try and get through together."
Another relative of one of the victims, who did not want to be named, said that Mr Reddin, Mr Taylor and Mr Mongta were former students of Echuca College, who were outgoing, charismatic and "loved hanging out with their mates".
It is understood their silver sedan hit a wire rope barrier, rolled and then crashed into the tree off the highway near Halpin Court, just south of Pyalong.
UPDATE 5.50PM: VicRoads advises the Northern Highway is now open from Seymour-Tooborac Road to Broadford-Pyalong Road.
The road had previously been closed following this morning's fatal accident.
UPDATE 5.30PM: A spokesperson for Victoria Police says investigations are continuing into the cause of the quadruple fatality on the Northern Highway at Pyalong.
She said a cause was unlikely to be determined today.
UPDATE 1.30PM: Mayor of the Murray shire Thomas Weyrich says the loss of four lives on the Northern Highway this morning will have a 'devastating' impact on the community.
Two of the young men killed in the crash near Pyalong were residents from Moama, which is part of the Murray shire.
"This is a tragedy for people living in Echuca and Moama. Four young people have perished. It's a tragic set of circumstances," Cr Weyrich said.
"The destruction brought upon the vehicle is horrendous and it's even sickening to look at the photos.
"Accidents of this nature have a flow on effect to families and friends and have a devastating impact on the community.
"And on behalf of the council I'm deeply saddened that this event has occurred."
UPDATE 1.20PM: Campaspe shire mayor Leigh Wilson says the deaths of four young men on the Northern Highway near Pyalong is a 'tragedy beyond comprehension'.
One of the men killed in the crash is from Echuca which is the heart of the Campaspe region and is where the four are believed to have been heading.
"It's a tragedy beyond comprehension that in this instance we’ve lost four young lives," Cr Wilson said.
"My heart goes out to their families and their friends.
"We need to ensure that our children, our younger brothers and sisters or our younger friends are aware of the risks of travelling on the roads and encourage them to be careful.
"You only get one life. We don’t get to reset and have another go."
UPDATE 12:30PM: The victims of the crash are confirmed as a 22-year-old from Echuca, a 28 and 19-year-old from Moama and a 22-year-old from Craigieburn.
The group is believed to have been travelling to Echuca from Melbourne.
The 2001 Holden SS V8 Commodore was registered to a Echuca address. The owner of the vehicle, who was not involved in the crash, is a relative of one of the deceased occupants.
P-platers are prohibited from driving V8 vehicles in Victoria. A P-plate was found in the vicinity of the crash.
Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said preliminary findings indicated there was no reason to believe excessive speed was to blame for the crash.
He said emergency services were having difficulty extracting bodies from the wreckage.
A crane will be used to lift the vehicle onto the road so workers can remove the bodies of the four men.
An arborist is also on the scene.
Assistant Commissioner Hill said a female police officer from the local area was one of the first on scene.
One of the occupants, believed to be the driver, was still alive when she arrived.
Assistant Commissioner Hill said she tried to offer the young man comfort before he died.
"The police member held the hand of that person and tried to comfort him as much as she could. Unfortunately he passed away 10 or 15 minutes after she arrived," he said.
He said he had spoken to the officer involved.
"It's going to be traumatic for her, no doubt. We've already established a welfare plan for our police members, that was one of the first things we did," Assistant Commissioner Hill said.
"We are very conscious of the welfare of our police members, particularly those who have to deal with these horrific incidents.
"This member comforted a young man fighting for life. It would have been distressing."
UPDATE 10.30am: Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill has said the crash is one of the worst he has seen.
"It is a shocking scene," he said.
"It is certainly something that will stay with me for a long time."
He said the four young male occupants of the vehicle appeared to have died instantly when the vehicle they were in careered off the road travelling north on the Northern Highway approaching Pyalong at about 6.30am. The vehicle struck the commencement of a wire rope barrier and travelled airborne and crashed into a tree after rolling.
The impact of the smash split the V8 Commodore in two.
The collision occurred on a left hand bend.
Police confirmed a p-plate had been found at the scene.
Investigators will look into possible causal factors including drugs, alcohol, speed or fatigue.
Assistant Commissioner Hill said he was not aware of any alcohol containers found at the crash site.
The stretch of road is signposted at 100km/h.
The investigation is still in its infancy and police are in the process of notifying victims' families, he said.
"We have the Major Collision Investigation Unit here, the Disaster Victim Identification Unit here as well with other emergency services working through a process to understand why this crash has occurred," Assistant Commissioner Hill said.
He said the crash was a tragic end to a positive Australia Day holiday period. No fatalities were recorded over the Australia Day weekend.
"There is no reason this needs to happen on our roads. Four people dying in a crash in a location that is fundamentally safe," he said.
"I was here in this part of the state 12 months ago when we had four people killed in Elmore in tragic circumstances. Yet again we have another crash where we've seen four people lose their lives in circumstances that could have been avoided.
"This is tragic for the families that have lost loved ones and it's tragic for the community here in Pyalong, the community where these people live, and it's tragic for our emergency services."
Nearby residents heard the collision and were on scene soon after.
Assistant Commissioner Hill said while the road safety message had gotten through to most people, crashes such as this were all too common.
"I think the majority of Victorians do the right thing on our roads," he said.
"But some people make the wrong choices. Some people let themselves down and other people down and this is a consequence of that."
UPDATE 10.15am: Halpin Court resident Rosa Bazzano told The Age her neighbour, who was new to the area, had happened upon the crash scene on her way to work.
"She's the one who rang triple-0," she said.
Another resident Moira Waye told The Age she did not realise the crash had occurred until she heard the sirens of the fire trucks.
"I didn't hear anything until the fire trucks arrived," she said.
"I don't know whether they were locals. Obviously, because it's a busy road, it could have been anyone travelling north."
UPDATE 10am: Mitchell Shire mayor Rodney Parker has offered his condolences to the families of those killed.
"It's an awful, awful thing to happen," he said.
"It's terrible news and a reminder to all of us to be careful on the roads because it doesn't take much for a tragedy like this to happen."
UPDATE 9.46am: Police advise the road between Tooborac and Kilmore will be closed for up to eight hours.
UPDATE 9.20am: The mayor of Pyalong, and the Mitchell Shire, Rodney Parker, tweeted news of the crash: "Terrible accident in Pyalong this morning reports of 4 killed in single car collision, police investigating".
UPDATE 9.10am: 7News is reporting that it believes the driver had P-plates and the vehicle occupants are believed to be teenagers.
UPDATE 8.10am: Four people have died in a crash on the Northern Highway, north of Melbourne.
Fairfax Media understands a car carrying four people crashed into a tree off the highway at Pyalong near Halpin Court about 6.45am on Wednesday.
It is understood the impact of the crash severed the car in two, killing all occupants at the scene.
"The car is half way up a gumtree and split in half," Nine News helicopter pilot Ross Barker told radio station 3AW. "I feel for the guys down there."
Local police have described the crash scene as "horrific".
"We have a number of families to contact," an officer said.
Detectives from the Major Collision Investigation Unit are en route to the scene and will be investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash.
The Northern Highway has been closed in both directions between Seymour-Tooborac Road and Broadford-Pyalong Road.
UPDATE 7.50am: Victoria Police has released a statement about the incident. It reads as follows:
It’s believed four people have been killed in the single vehicle crash.
The crash occurred around 6.45am this morning on the Northern Highway near Halpin Court.
Detectives from the Major Collision Investigation Unit are en route and will be investigating the circumstances of the incident.
Police are also keen to speak to anyone who may have witnessed the crash.
Any witnesses are urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
Provisional Road Toll:
EARLIER: It is believed four people have been killed in a horror crash on the Northern Highway at Pyalong, The Age reports.
It is understood the four people were travelling in a car which crashed into a tree about 6.44am.
VicRoads advises that the Northern Highway has been closed in both directions between Seymour-Tooborac Road and Broadford-Pyalong Road due to the fatal crash.
Motorists are advised to avoid the area if possible.