A 47-year-old South Australian man has been identified as the victim of a fiery crash near the SA-Victorian border, where traffic banked-up amid new travel restrictions for residents of Greater Melbourne.

Key points:

  • The main border crossing between Victoria and South Australia has been closed
  • One of the trucks burst into flames and a truck driver was killed
  • Two other drivers were taken to hospital

The accident involved three trucks and happened on the Western Highway at Serviceton about 2:20am.

The queue of vehicles stretched for several kilometres, as trucks and cars waited to get into South Australia.

The main border crossing between the states, where the Western Highway becomes the Dukes Highway, remains closed in both directions and traffic is being diverted.

Victoria Police has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash, including border arrangements.

It is believed a truck crashed into the back of another stationary truck, which then collided with a third truck in front.

The first vehicle burst into flames, killing the driver, and fire engulfed the other two vehicles, about five kilometres east of the South Australian border.

“The collision involved three B-doubles and sadly as a result of this collision one person has died, and Victoria Police extend their sympathies to the extended family and friends of this person, and also to all members involved in that traumatic scene,” Victorian Police Inspector Di Thomson said.

The trucks were engulfed by flames after the collision.(Facebook: Sean Tonksy)

Inspector Thomson said its Major Collision Investigation Unit would examine the circumstances surrounding the crash, “including the vehicle checkpoints [and] road closures”.

Police confirmed the man killed in the crash was a 47-year-old from South Australia, and that the driver and a passenger in the middle truck were taken to Bordertown Memorial Hospital.

“Two people from the middle B-double were taken to Bordertown Hospital with minor injuries and they’re doing really well. The driver in the front B-double sustained no injuries at the scene,” Inspector Thomson said.

The highway is closed in both directions and drivers are being diverted to the Wimmera Highway at Naracoorte.

Victoria Police Inspector Di Thomson said its Major Collision Investigation Unit would examine the circumstances surrounding the crash.(ABC News: Isadora Bogle)

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the crash had “caused some backlog for people travelling between SA and Victoria” and confirmed the trucks were queuing to get into South Australia.

“My understanding is the trucks were heading to South Australia. One truck has gone into the rear of another vehicle and forced it into another truck, and those trucks were already in a line waiting to enter South Australia,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“This is clearly a tragic set of circumstances where a person has lost their life, but the reality is we’ve been doing these checkpoints for months and months. There are always going to be obstructions on our roads.”

The crash has prompted anger and frustration, including from truck drivers and other social media users, who have taken aim at the snap lockdown.

“There is a hill that prevents visibility with no police vehicle flashing lights or signage moved to the end of the banked-up line of trucks. Surely not safe when the border control would of [sic] been aware trucks were banking up like that.”

Another said they had “been waiting for something like this to happen. At the drop of a pin they close our borders”.

“Our driver was there and could not even see the fire the line was so long,” another said.

Witness ‘saw the blast’

SA Police’s Bordertown coronavirus checkpoint will be closed as police investigate.

“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.”

Truck driver Steve told ABC Radio Adelaide the incident occurred amid heavy traffic and a rush for the border. He said he “saw the blast”.

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 said.

“Then we got to the fire where there were three B-doubles all alight. They were gone.”

Witnesses said the queue stretched for more than 5 kilometres.(Supplied: Simon Goodwin)

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 said.

“The presence of a queue is not the problem.”

Snap lockdown comes into effect

Travellers from Greater Melbourne are now barred from entering South Australia due to new coronavirus cases in Victoria, after a hard border kicked in overnight. 

SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier defended the snap lockdown, saying it was a necessary response to Victoria’s Holiday Inn cluster.

Exemptions apply for essential travellers, SA residents returning home, genuine relocations and people escaping domestic violence, SA Police said.

People already in South Australia who had been at, or are a close contact of anyone who had been at, the Holiday Inn from January 27 onwards have been directed to contact SA Health immediately, and enter quarantine.

Anyone who has been in Greater Melbourne who had already arrived in SA prior to the travel ban will have to remain in quarantine until they test negative.

Travellers from Victorian regions outside Greater Melbourne are still permitted to enter SA and will not have to be tested or enter quarantine.

“People are permitted to transit through Melbourne Airport providing they have been in a low community transmission zone… for 14 days, have only been in the airport for two hours or less and have worn a face mask for the entirety of the time they are in transit including during the flight,” SA Police said.