A tragic double fatality at Mannerim has propelled Victoria’s road toll to the highest number of fatalities at the start of a year since 2010. The shocking crash accounted for two of four deaths on the state’s roads in less than 24 hours. Two cars burst into flames after colliding at high speeds off the Portarlington-Queens¬cliff Rd about 10.30pm on Tuesday, police say.

The fire-damaged vehicles — reported to be a Ford Falcon and Mitsubishi Pajero — were catapulted into a nearby paddock and found by a passer-by. The occupants of the vehicles — both drivers — died at the scene. Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said investigating officers believed one vehicle had driven through the intersection and not stopped.

“It was a catastrophic event. Any loss of life is a catastrophic event,” Mr Leane said. “What we do know is that we had one vehicle that came into the intersection at speed and didn’t appear to obey any signal or give way opportunity that it had. “Both vehicles were catapulted into a farmer’s paddock and, quite extraordinarily, both caught fire. “How that happens — sometimes you have got to shake your head.”

Police, including specialised forensic officers, spent most of yesterday at the scene trawling through evidence. By late afternoon the identity of the victims was not officially known. Senior Sergeant Gary Wilson of Geelong highway patrol said the crash scene was a horrific reminder of how quickly life could be lost.

“Any death on our roads is a tragedy — it has a significant impact on the first responders as well as the family of the deceased people,” Sen-Sergeant Wilson said. “We feel for those people and it is horrible.” Sen-Sergeant Wilson said the circumstances surrounding the collision were still under investigation with police calling for any witnesses to come forward.

“It’s still very much at the evidence collection stage and hopefully that will lead to some answers,” he said. “If anyone has dashcam footage or witnessed the collision, we urge them to please come forward.” Sen-Sergeant Wilson said that before Tuesday’s double fatality no lives had been lost on the region’s road in 2019. “Our trauma is down — but this shows it doesn’t take many to turn it around,” Sen-Sergeant Wilson said. “One death is one too many.”

The TAC’s Joe Calafiore said the agency would work with police to ramp up a visible road safety campaign targeting all Victorian drivers across the coming days and weeks. “I urge Victorians to ease up and take your time,” Mr Calafiore said. “Road safety is driven by the six million Victorians that turn the key every day.” Geelong highway patrol police will continue to ramp up patrols in black spot areas and enforce speed limits.