A woman who rushed to the scene of a horrific high-speed car crash in Melbourne’s north that killed three young people, including a 12-year-old boy, said she desperately tried to help the unconscious victims who she described as being ‘‘just children’’.
A boy was walking dazed around the car’s mangled wreckage on Pascoe Vale Road in Coolaroo when Seda Mergen, whose house is opposite the crash site, and her husband ran to see if they could help just before midnight.
They found another boy lying critically injured on the bitumen after the stolen Toyota Camry, carrying six children all aged 16 or younger, lost control and slammed into a brick wall near the Coolaroo railway station.
The 16-year-old female driver from Sunbury, as well as a 12-year-old Preston boy and a 14-year-old Pascoe Vale girl, died at the scene of the crash, which left the car a crumpled wreck.
Assistant Commissioner Andrew Crisp said a police officer cradled the 16-year-old unlicensed driver as she died at the crash scene.
‘‘There are no winners in this,’’ he told radio station 3AW.
Police said a 16-year-old Broadmeadows boy was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with life-threatening injuries. A 15-year-old Dallas boy and a 14-year-old Lalor boy were taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a stable condition.
Mrs Mergen and her husband unsuccessfully tried to rouse the children who were trapped in the wreckage, which was so mangled that there was no gap between the front and back seats.
The driver was trapped between the steering wheel and the driver’s seat, she said, while another girl was hanging outside the car.
She said all the victims were ‘‘tiny’’, ‘‘just children’’.
‘‘I couldn’t get a response from all four of them. Only from the boy that was laying outside. He was moving around and he was speaking to me, but the other four I wasn’t able to get a response from,’’ Mrs Mergen said.
‘‘[The boy lying outside] just said ‘I’m not OK’.’’
She was a nice, beautiful girl, friendly, had so many friends, and one stupid decision has ruined her life.
‘‘The back seat was now joined to the front seat so there was no back or front seat. It was quite hard, it was quite horrific.’’
She said the boy who was walking around dazed was able to identify the other victims, but was clearly in shock.
Ed Oakley, the acting director of emergency medicine at the Royal Children's Hospital, said emergency room staff had worked on the two boys brought in last night for between one-and-a-half and two hours.
Dr Oakley said the boys - a 15-year-old from Dallas and a 14-year-old from Lalor - were both stable but had "significant injuries".
He said last night's crash was shocking, and staff had been offered counselling.
"We see approximately 50 major motor vehicle accidents a year in which children are injured or killed," he said.
"Most of those are in adolescence, not young children and the risk is much greater in adolescence.
"From our point of view all of these injuries are preventable and seeing a single major injury or fatality from a motor vehicle crash in a teenager is one too many.
"Clearly a number of teenagers being injured or killed in a single accident is terrible and I feel for the families that are going through this and for the staff that looked after the patients."
He said last night's crash should serve as a warning to other adolescents.
"My warning to them is to take a moment to think about the potential effects the risk-taking behaviour may have not just on them, but their friends who are with them, on their families who are ... at home and on their extended families," he said.
Mr Crisp said the maroon vehicle had been reported stolen from Meadow Heights, and did not have enough seatbelts for the six teenagers on board.
He said the car was travelling south on Pascoe Vale Road when the driver lost control on a slight right-hand bend in dry conditions.
The vehicle crashed into a ‘‘substantial brick wall’’ about 100 metres further south of the bend, Mr Crisp said.
There are skid marks on the road and police believe speed was a factor in the crash.
At the crash scene today, 14-year-old Siyar described one of the girls killed in the crash as ‘‘like a sister’’.
Fighting back tears, he said another of his 15-year-old friends was in hospital with spinal injuries and a broken pelvis.
‘‘He was like a brother to me. We have known each other since prep,’’ Siyar said of his friend in the hospital.
‘‘My best friend called me saying that [the boy] was in a car crash and I was like ‘You’re joking’. I came down here because I was going to go to school and I saw it when I came.’’
He said one of the females killed in the crash was ‘‘one of my favourite girls’’.
‘‘She always makes herself look pretty and now she’s gone. She was like a sister to me as well. We used to call each other chocolate muffin and muffin,’’ he said.
Mr Crisp said some young people were risk-takers and believed they were invincible.
‘‘It’s about what we can all do as a community, as family, as friends, to try to protect, discourage and support young people that might actually engage in this sort of activity. It’s a tough one, it’s a community issue,’’ he said.
Mr Crisp said emergency service workers who arrived at the scene were shocked at the carnage.
‘‘As police officers, whether the most junior attending these scene or the most senior looking after a whole region, we take these personally and we shake our heads when we see these sorts of situations,’’ he said.
He urged family and friends of the victims who wanted to visit the crash scene today to take care on busy Pascoe Vale Road, which is an 80km/h zone.
‘‘We know that people will probably turn up here but we just want to send a message, please, that if you’re going to turn up please be careful, don’t park on the road itself and just be very, very careful if you’re coming to the scene,’’ he said.
Police from the Major Collision Investigation Unit cordoned off the crash scene, near the intersection with Barry Road, and the road remained closed until about 7.15am.
At least one of the boys who survived the crash is known to police, Mr Crisp said.
Police are trying to piece together the movements of the teenagers in the hours before the crash. Their families have all been notified.
Andrew Violante, whose friend knows one of the female crash victims, surveyed the crash scene with shock this morning.
‘‘I could make a stupid decision myself and get in a car,’’ he said.
Mr Violante said one of the girls killed was a year 10 student at a northern suburbs school.
His friend had described her as a ‘‘beautiful girl’’, he said.
‘‘She was a nice, beautiful girl, friendly, had so many friends, and one stupid decision has ruined her life,’’ Mr Violante said.
Mrs Mergen said she had lived on Pascoe Vale Road for eight months and didn’t believe that motorists regularly sped along the strip, although others claimed that they did.
She said she was appalled at some rubber-neckers who stopped at the accident site this morning, including one man with a cigarette who approached the car, which was leaking petrol, to peer inside.
A Facebook page has been set up in tribute to one of the female victims, who has been described as a ‘‘beautiful girl’’.
‘‘You had attitude but you were such a lovely girl taken too early! xox your in a better place now. miss seeing you at school always having a smile on your face [sic],’’ wrote one friend.
Another wrote: ‘‘R.I.P you will be missed, I will miss seeing your smiling face around school.’’
A total of 13 paramedics were called to the horrific crash, which has echoes of the Mill Park smash that claimed the lives of five teenagers in 2010.
In that crash, a teenage driver lost control of his overcrowded vehicle and slammed into a tree on Plenty Road.
Today’s deaths bring Victoria’s road toll for the year to 242, compared to 234 for the same time last year.
Police have appealed for anyone who saw the crash or has information to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppers.com.au.