Five Indians, including two children aged nine and 11, were killed and several others injured after a car driven by an elderly man ploughed into the beer garden of a pub in the Australian state of Victoria, police said.
Vivek Bhatia (38), his son Vihan (11), Pratibha Sharma (44), her daughter, Anvi (nine), and partner Jatin Chugh (30) died after an SUV mounted a kerb and hit patrons on the front lawn of the Royal Daylesford hotel on Sunday evening.
Five other people, including Bhatia’s wife, Ruchi (36), younger son Abeer (six) and an 11-month-old child, are in hospital being treated for injuries.
While addressing a news conference on Monday, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the victims were all visitors to the area, and described the incident as “an absolute tragedy”.
Patton said the driver of the white BMW, a 66-year-old man from Mount Macedon, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, where he was breath tested and did not have alcohol in his system.
The police chief said it was too early to determine if speed was a factor in the fatal crash.
Gurjit Singh, secretary of the Australian Sikh Support group, confirmed to The Age that Pratibha Sharma and her partner, both from Point Cook, died on the spot.
Her daughter was taken to hospital where she succumbed to injuries.
Singh said Sharma joined the group as a volunteer in 2020 during the pandemic and helped deliver food and groceries to people in quarantine.
She also ran for Victorian parliament and local council and, according to friends, was involved in multiple charities in the communities, the Melbourne-based newspaper reported.
Bhatia’s parents are now reportedly on their way to Victoria from India to watch over Ruchi and her son as they recover in the Royal Melbourne Hospital intensive care unit after suffering broken legs and internal injuries.
Meanwhile, hundreds of members from the Daylesford community turned up for a vigil for those who met with a tragic end.
Expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on X: “We are all shocked by what happened in Daylesford, and so deeply saddened — for those whose lives were so cruelly cut short, and for those who can never be the same again. The hearts of all Australians go out to everyone affected, including loved ones, friends, first responders and the Daylesford community.”
A total of 204 people have reportedly died on Victorian roads so far this year.