Four young people have been killed after their car smashed into a tree while apparently overtaking a truck on a highway in northern New South Wales.
A 22-year-old woman from Ewingsdale, who was driving, two men from Ballina, aged 19 and 20, and a 17-year-old girl from Skennars Head all died at the scene.
The accident happened on the Pacific Highway between Byron Bay and Ballina where roadworks had reduced the speed limit to 80 kilometres per hour and overtaking is prohibited.
"It's a single lane in each direction and it's divided by unbroken lines," Senior Sergeant Chad George said.
"It appears at this stage they were overtaking.
"As a result, they have lost control and left the roadway and collided with a tree."
Senior Sergeant George said the driver of the truck that was being overtaken had been interviewed by police.
"We also seek any information from other members of the public who may have seen the silver sedan prior to the collision," he said.'It makes you feel sick'
Sharyn Poole, who lives near the crash site, said drivers generally observed the 80kph speed limit during the day, but it was largely ignored at night.
She said she heard a noise early in the morning but was not initially concerned.
"I'd only been in bed about 10 minutes and I just heard a crunch," she said.
"I just jumped straight up, looked out the bedroom window and just saw a truck slowing down ... so I thought it wasn't an accident and maybe something had happened with the truck and it lost a wheel or something."
Ms Poole said she did not realise there had been a serious crash until emergency crews arrived about an hour later.
"Usually if there's an accident we come straight out but [we didn't] because I really didn't think there was a car involved," she said.
"I couldn't have done anything, I'm sure, but you just don't know. It's really bad. It makes you feel sick."Talk to your kids: Police Commissioner
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the crash was a "tragedy that is beyond description" and should prompt parents to warn their children to take more care on the roads.
"Four young Australians are dead," he told Macquarie Radio.
"We've all got to learn from these tragedies or the people who have died have died for no reason.
Commissioner Scipione urged parents to use images from the crash to emphasise road safety messages.
"Please spare a though as well for those truckies that were involved that did nothing wrong, those ambos, those cops, those firies, all of the people that have been caught up in this because they are going to suffer as well."
Police said they would investigate whether speed, alcohol or fatigue were contributing factors.
Senior Sergeant George said the region's road toll was now the worst in the state.
"This brings the [road toll] for the Richmond and Tweed-Byron commands to 24 deaths this year, which is now up from the same period last year," he said.