The Calder Freeway is likely to remain closed until Wednesday morning following a horrific fatal crash involving a petrol tanker that is being described as one of Melbourne’s worst. The body of at least one person remains trapped in a crushed white Toyota on the freeway, where emergency crews are trying to stabilise 20,000 litres of spilt fuel. The victim is believed to be a 49-year-old man from Ascot Vale. His next of kin have been notified, but police are yet to confirm if other people were in the car at the time of the crash.
Police investigators were only able to get access to the site at about 5.30pm, about nine hours after the crash – as the Metropolitan Fire Brigade had set up an exclusion zone around the site. The Calder Freeway is likely to remain closed until Wednesday morning following a horrific fatal crash involving a petrol tanker that is being described
Travellers heading to Melbourne Airport from south-eastern suburbs are advised to take the West Gate Freeway onto the Western Ring Road and then join the Tullamarine Freeway to avoid delays at the Tullamarine Freeway/Calder Freeway interchange.
Motorists travelling to the airport from the north-west are advised to exit the Calder Freeway onto the Western Ring Road and then join the Tullamarine Freeway.
It is not known if more than one person is in the white car, which remains in the middle of the freeway, partially covered by a blue sheet.
Firefighters have covered the crash site with white foam to prevent the fuel from igniting, but it is still too dangerous to use special cutting equipment on the wreckage.
Six others were injured in the crash, which occurred during Tuesday’s morning peak hour in the outbound lanes of the Calder Freeway, near Milleara Road.
Inspector John Kearney told reporters at the scene: “I don’t think you get much worse than this.”
Investigators believe the truck was in the centre lane on the freeway when a car pulled out in front of it.
It is believed the truck driver swerved to avoid the car, before losing control of the vehicle and then crashing into a number of cars and flipping on to its side.
Inspector Kearney said one car was crushed in the crash, but it did not appear the truck rolled onto the car. He said the car appeared to have been damaged before the truck flipped. Emergency services first received calls about the crash at 8.40am.
The Toll fuel tanker was carrying 60,000 litres of diesel and unleaded petrol at the time of the crash.
Darren McQuade, Assistant Chief Fire Officer with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade said 20,000 litres had leaked from the truck, with most draining into nearby Steels Creek.
Inspector Kearney said police hoped to interview the truck driver sometime on Tuesday.
Six people were taken to hospital, including the truck driver.
A woman aged in her 40s suffered neck, shoulder and arm injuries when her car overturned. She was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a stable condition.
The truck driver was also taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with leg injuries.
Two women – aged in their 20s and 40s – suffered neck and hand injuries and were taken to Sunshine Hospital in a stable condition.
A woman in her 60s with a wrist injury was taken to Western Hospital Footscray.
A teenage boy was taken to Sunshine Hospital as a precaution. Andrew Chung, who was driving to work, arrived on the crash scene seconds after it happened.
“I saw people getting out of their cars to help, running and walking around,” Mr Chung said.
He said there was a heavy smell of petrol and he could see petrol leaking out of the tanker.
Mr Chung said the stretch of the Calder Freeway where the crash occurred was always dangerous.
“That intersection is always an issue,” Mr Chung said. “The problem with it is that people are trying to cut across the lane to get to the exit. I’ve seen them cut across three lanes to get to the exit point.”
Witness Trent Theodore also said the freeway was a dangerous stretch of road.
“This freeway is notorious for trucks trying to move over onto the centre lane and cars cutting them off,” he said. “It happens on this entrance ramp all the time.”
Mr Theodore said he saw firefighters arrive at the scene and treat a person who was trapped in the white Toyota.
“They tried desperately to save the person that was in there but then moments later I could see them put a blue sheet over [the car],” Mr Theodore said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Toll Group released a statement, saying the company was deeply saddened by the crash.
“Our priority right now is to offer every support to the people impacted and their families and to continue to assist authorities with investigating the incident,” the statement says.
The Major Collision Investigation Unit are investigating.
Anyone who witnessed the collision, or with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.