The Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed for about three hours on Thursday morning after a woman died and four people were injured in a “horrific” head-on car crash.
A helicopter ambulance landed on the bridge to help emergency services deal with the pile-up, which happened about 7.15am and sparked traffic chaos.
The delays were so extensive, crews from The Rocks Fire Station had to get to the crash scene on foot.
NSW authorities urged people to work from home as queues of cars, trucks and busses fanned out for kilometres across Sydney.
A female motorist who had been waiting two hours to cross the bridge described the scene as “horrific”.
“It’s pretty bad, they’ve cut open cars, one car is pretty much flattened,” she said.
“They just got a person out as we were driving past. It’s pretty terrible.”
That person, a woman in her 40s, was trapped in her car for more than half an hour with severe injuries. Rescue crews had to cut off the roof of her BMW to free her.
The collision, which involved a Mitsubishi Mirage travelling north and a BMW travelling south, was so extensive rescue crews divided it into two separate operations because it spanned multiple lanes.
The female driver of the Mitsubishi died at the scene.
Her two passengers, both men believed to be in their 30s, were treated for head injuries. One is in a serious condition.
The driver of the BMW could be seen talking to her rescuers and turning her head once the roof of her vehicle was removed.
NSW Ambulance Chief Superintendent Cameron Edgar said the woman was “quite badly trapped for a significant period of time” and had severe leg injuries.
“She was obviously concerned and in pain but she was, all things being considered, in reasonably good spirits and able to talk to the paramedics and doctor throughout her treatment,” he said.
The passenger in her car escaped with minor injuries.
The helicopter that landed on the bridge had a specialist medical team on board. It flew the man in a serious condition to Royal North Shore Hospital.
The Harbour Bridge links the CBD to Australia’s third largest business district of North Sydney.
It reopened just after 10am but delays were expected to continue until the afternoon.
“The advice at this stage is to avoid travel all together,” Melissa Cornejo, from NSW’s Transport Management Centre, said before the bridge reopened.
“Buses are not travelling over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and they are terminating their trips early.
“You can consider catching a train. However, we are reminding people to practise physical distancing when on board services.”