A driver has died in a fiery crash involving three trucks in Victoria’s far west, near the South Australian border where coronavirus travel restrictions were reimposed overnight.
The main border crossing between Victoria and South Australia was closed on Thursday because of the crash.
Victoria Police said the accident happened on the Western Highway at Serviceton about 2.20am. SA Police were also on the scene early on Thursday.
The highway was closed in both directions and motorists were being diverted to the Wimmera Highway at Naracoorte.
It is believed a truck crashed into a stationary truck, which then collided with the truck in front of it. All three vehicles then caught fire.
Truck driver Steve told ABC Radio the incident occurred in heavy traffic and a rush for the border.
Travellers from greater Melbourne are barred from entering South Australia due to new coronavirus cases in Victoria, after a hard border kicked in at midnight Wednesday.
Steve said he saw the “blast”.
“I felt the explosion of the truck that ran into the back of the other vehicle,” he said.
He said it took “five hours to get 10 kilometres … to get to the front of the line, to drive through an empty marquee”.
Country Fire Service firefighter Simon Ballinger, from the Wolseley brigade, was among the first responders on scene.
“We passed an unbelievable queue of trucks that I’ve never seen the likes of before,” he told the ABC.
“There would have been five kilometres, at a guess, of wall-to-wall trucks and a few cars in between.
“Then we got to the fire where there were three B-doubles all alight. They were gone.”
The crash scene is about five kilometres east of the SA border.
“The driver of the first truck, a yet to be identified man, died at the scene,” Victoria Police said.
“Emergency crews are still on scene and an investigation into the incident has commenced.”
SA Road Transport Association executive officer Steve Shearer said the border checkpoint should not be blamed for the crash.
“We don’t know whether it was a medical episode … or some other issue. We’ll have to wait and see,” he told the ABC.
“The presence of a queue is not the problem.”
SA Police’s Bordertown coronavirus checkpoint was closed on Thursday as police investigated.
“The Dukes Highway is currently closed in both directions and access to each state will not be possible at this location,” SA Police said.
“SA motorists heading to Victoria are being diverted south onto Meatworks Road toward Naracoorte; access to Victoria will be via the Wimmera Highway.”
Elsewhere, the virus cluster linked to a Melbourne quarantine hotel remained at eight on Thursday, with no new cases reported overnight.
Victoria’s Department of Health confirmed two infections on Thursday – both were reported to authorities in the 24 hours to midnight Wednesday.
Those cases, announced on Wednesday afternoon, are a worker at the Holiday Inn Melbourne airport, and an international traveller who completed hotel quarantine there.
The other infections in the outbreak are a family of three that stayed in the Holiday Inn, and two other hotel workers and another returned traveller.
One of the family members is in intensive care in a Victorian hospital.
That person, who has an underlying health condition, uses a nebuliser –a device that vaporises medications or liquids into a fine mist. Authorities believe might be to blame for the outbreak.
Anyone who visited a shopping centre in Sunbury, north-west of Melbourne, has been urged to get tested as the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow.
The state Department of Health issued an alert late on Wednesday asking anyone who visited the Sunbury Square Shopping Centre on February 5 between 3.40-4.30pm to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.
It described the move as a “precautionary approach” after one of the infected quarantine workers while infectious with COVID-19.
- See a full list of exposure sites here
The outbreak has forced the hotel’s closure until further notice, while plans to increase the state’s weekly cap on international arrivals from 1120 to 1310 from next week have been put on hold.
More than 135 hotel staff have been stood down and told to get tested and isolate at home for 14 days, while 48 guests were moved to the Pullman Melbourne to quarantine for at least another three days.