THE remains of the car were barely recognisable, strewn more than 50 metres away while debris littered the road.
This was the horrific scene police were confronted with after a high-speed crash that killed one Moree man and left another clinging for life.
The sheer impact of the crash with the tree split the Holden sedan in two, throwing both men from the vehicle.
Moments before the car passed an RBT site manned by Barwon police on the Carnarvon Highway, just north of Moree.
Officers tried to chase the Holden to catch up to it when they came across the wreckage strewn all over the road.
Emergency services rushed to the scene and frantically worked to save a 24-year-old male suffering critical head, leg and internal injuries.
He was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle where he remains in a critical condition.
Assistant Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said police were then left with the harrowing task of telling one local family their loved one would not be home this Christmas, while another was fighting for survival.
“I understand it was a fairly significant impact ... no doubt quite horrific,” he said.
A critical incident investigation was launched – the team called in from the neighbouring Oxley Command – to examine the moments leading up to the crash.
“The critical incident team examines the actions of police,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.
“There is a limited number of people and witnesses and the team will get through those as quickly and effectively as they can.
“It has to be said the police involvement in this case was extremely minimal.”
The collision closed the highway for about 19 hours as crash investigators, police and forensic officers combed the scene piecing together what happened.
“It’s too early to tell,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.
“[The experts] will make some sort of determinations and provide those to the coroner down the track.”
The death marked the first of the national road toll which has continued to climb since.
“It’s tragic that a young person has lost their life and now another person is facing really significant injuries and a long battle to recover,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.
“We urge all drivers to slow down over the holiday period and get where they are trying to go.”