A senior police officer and a motorist have been killed in a horror crash in Victoria’s north-west which has left the force in mourning.
- A 25-year-old female senior constable and a 23-year-old male ute driver both died at the scene of the head-on crash
- Another senior officer was airlifted to hospital with critical injuries and the occupants of a third car involved were taken to hospital for observation
- Police and the union say the impact of the tragedy will ripple through the entire force
Victoria Police said the unmarked highway patrol car and a ute collided on Kulkyne Way in Red Cliffs near Mildura about 10pm on Friday night.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the very early stages of the investigation suggested the ute veered across the road into the oncoming police car.
It caused a “catastrophic outcome, the death of a civilian driver, the death of our member, and one member still in hospital critically injured”, he said.
A third car, driving behind the highway patrol vehicle, appeared to have crashed into the police car after the initial collision.
Bria Joyce — a 25-year-old female senior constable who was driving the Mildura highway patrol car — died at the scene.
Chief Commissioner Patton said she had been in the force for six years and was “a highly respected and competent officer”.
The driver of the ute, a 23-year-old male from nearby Cardross, also died at the crash site.
Meanwhile, the other officer in the police car, a 43-year-old male leading senior constable, was taken to Mildura Base Hospital then airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
He was in a critical but stable condition on Saturday morning.
Chief Commissioner Patton said the leading senior constable had been in the force for 21 years, more than three of those in Mildura, and was “very highly thought of”.
Police initially said there were two young children in the ute and one in the third car, but later clarified the three children at the scene were all passengers of the third car.
The male driver of that vehicle and the children were all taken to hospital for assessment but were not injured.
The Chief Commissioner said in the early stages, there was no indication the police car was involved in a pursuit or any attempt to intercept the ute.
Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives travelled to the scene to oversee the investigation.
‘Toughest days’ faced by police force
The shock crash has left Victoria’s emergency services community reeling.
The deadly crash occurred close to the anniversary of the tragic Eastern Freeway crash which killed four officers in 2020.
“This will obviously impact substantially across the police force and it will also impact right across the community,” Chief Commissioner Patton said.
He said attending any fatal collision was a difficult thing for police officers to do, “but when you’re actually attending the scene of a colleague in a close-knit tight community, that makes it especially difficult”.
“The trauma that then gets relayed to colleagues investigating colleagues and going to the scene and going and doing what they do, is an absolute tragedy,” he said.
The Police Association’s Wayne Gatt said the force was “mourning for another colleague, loved one, friend and protector, whose life was cut short in their duty to the community”.
“We would like to express our heartfelt sadness to the family of our member. Your sacrifice can’t be measured. The impact of a tragedy like this ripples through the entire force,” he said in a statement.
“We are thinking of you, and we stand beside you always.”
Police Minister Lisa Neville said it was “a really terrible day”.
“I know that family, friends, colleagues, the whole Mildura community, will be hurting today,” she said.
“My thoughts, my condolences, my prayers go out to everyone who is affected by this tragedy.”
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy and Shadow Police Minister Brad Battin said they expressed their sincerest condolences.
The coroner and Victoria Police’s professional standards command have been notified of the crash and senior police leaders and welfare officers have been sent to Mildura.
Anyone who witnessed the crash is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.