There is division in the road transport industry over the management of coronavirus border checkpoints, as SA Police launch a major inquiry following yesterday’s fiery fatal truck crash.

Key points:

  • A 46-year-old Parafield Gardens man died in the crash
  • Trucks had queued for kilometres ahead of the SA border
  • South Australian and Victorian police are investigating

Driver Steven Lawrie, aged 46 and from Parafield Gardens, was killed on the Western Highway at Serviceton in Victoria’s far west, near the SA border, when his truck crashed into the back of another stationary truck about 2:20am on Thursday.

That vehicle then collided with a third truck in front, which was part of a long queue of traffic stretching several kilometres to get into SA after a snap decision was made to impose new border restrictions.

The first vehicle burst into flames, killing the driver as fire spread to the other two vehicles.

The highway remains closed in both directions at the border, and the Bordertown checkpoint has also been shut, with road diversions expected to remain in place across the weekend.

Tributes have flowed for Mr Lawrie, who is being remembered as a “great mate” who “touched the hearts of many”.

Investigations are ongoing into the crash that killed Mr Lawrie.(Facebook)

Victoria Police is continuing to investigating the crash and today provided further details about the incident.

“The driver of the second truck, a 27-year-old man from Langford, Western Australia and his passenger, a 63-year-old man from Carey Park, Western Australia, were taken to hospital and have since been released,” police said.

“The driver of the third truck, a 50-year-old man from Melton, Victoria, was uninjured.”

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens yesterday launched a major investigation into how traffic flows were managed when SA closed its border to travellers from Greater Melbourne.

“We had a group of five people on duty during the day shift period and during the evening period we scaled back to three.

“There were relatively low levels of activity up until 9:30pm and then when it was identified a build up was occurring, a further two police officers were deployed to assist in processing people.”

The truck burst into flames, killing the driver.(Facebook: Sean Tonksy)

The border change came as Victorian health authorities scrambled to contain the Holiday Inn coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Stevens said the inquiry would examine the management of checkpoints, but he was not not prepared to speculate about the cause of the crash.

“I have [ensured] we’ll do a proper inquiry alongside the work being done by the Victoria Police to provide a factual assessment of exactly what’s transpired and what the causative factors were,” he said.

“We’ve directed a traffic management expert out there … along with a senior police officer and a planning expert.

“They’ll be reviewing our set-up to ensure it’s appropriate in the circumstances, but we will be doing an inquiry beyond that to establish the full circumstances that have potentially contributed to the incident.”

Truckies divided over checkpoints

SA Road Transport Association executive officer Steve Shearer was adamant that the management of queues did not contribute to the crash.

A line of trucks queued on the Western Highway around the time of the crash.(Supplied: Simon Goodwin)

“The reason’s very simple — every single truck driver out there has a responsibility to drive in a way where they are observing what’s happening in front of them and acting accordingly.

“They’d know that there’s a queue there, and there’s also a lot of lights on trucks at night, so it all points to some other reason for this incident having occurred.”

But the director of road transport company Goodwin Freight said it was inherently dangerous for trucks to be backed up so far along the highway.

“There are basically 1,000 trucks every night that are going to go through that checkpoint,” Simon Goodwin said.

“It’s a single-lane, either-direction highway … there’s nowhere to pass … it’s just a two-lane road.”

Police have urged anyone who witnessed the incident or has dashcam footage from the area around the time of the incident to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.