Police urged drivers on country roads to take extreme care after four people were killed and a man remained in a critical condition following an horrific head-on crash near Bathurst in the central west of NSW.
A man and his wife, both aged 73, from nearby Kelso and a woman, 95, died instantly when the blue Toyota Camry they were in veered on to the wrong side of the Great Western Highway road and collided with a Mitsubishi Triton ute on Saturday afternoon, police said.
Police said the driver of a third vehicle, a semi-trailer, was unable to avoid the accident and drove over the top of the Mitsubishi.
An Orange man, 33, travelling in the ute was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver, 38, also from Orange, was flown in a critical condition to Westmead Hospital in Sydney.
The Orange men were transporting two greyhound dogs in a trailer attached to the ute and heading towards Sydney at the time of the crash, police said.
One dog died at the scene while another was seen on the road after the incident.
Assistant Commissioner John Hartley said the family of the driver of the Mitsubishi have travelled to Sydney to be by his side.
The 58 year-old driver of the semi-trailer was kept for observation at Bathurst Base Hospital overnight and discharged with minor injuries on Sunday morning.
Mr Hartley said police had no idea what caused the driver of the Camry to swerve on to the wrong side of the road but were awaiting the results from an autopsy.
"It could be anything - fatigue, a heart-attack, we just don't know at this stage," Mr Hartley said.
"It's a timely reminder with Christmas holidays coming up that crashes can occur anywhere, any time. That's why you need to be alert and well rested when driving," he said.
Brad Moras from Bathurst Towing said it was one of the most horrific fatals he had been called to in the past decade.
"The cars were annihilated, just completely destroyed and unrecognisable," Mr Moras said.
"I've been around cars for 15 years and when I first got there, I couldn't even recognise the make of the cars," he said.
The Great Western Highway was shut in both directions for about 12 hours as Bathurst police, firefighters and paramedics worked to extract the bodies from the cars and clear the road.
"It was a very big clean up for the police," Mr Moras said.
"People often forget about what the poor boys have to do. They have to stand there and scrape bodies out of cars."