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Police said an unmarked police car from the Mildura highway unit and a ute collided on Kulkyne Way near Forbes Road in Red Cliffs about 10pm yesterday.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the ute had veered onto the wrong side of the road and caused a head-on collision with the police car while a third car rear-ended the police car in a “catastrophic” accident.
A “highly respected” 25-year-old female senior constable and the 23-year-old male driver of the ute died at the scene.
The officer’s colleague, a “highly thought of” 43-year-old male leading senior constable, was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition with internal and leg injuries.
Two young children, who were passengers in the ute, were taken to hospital for treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.
The driver of the third car and a child suffered minor injuries and were also taken to hospital.
Police are trying to determine how the crash happened.
Commissioner Patton said the police officers had been on general duties when the crash occurred.
“There is no indication of any attempt of the police vehicle to be intercepting anyone, no pursuit involved,” he said.
Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives are investigating the crash and using recreations to determine what occurred.
Commissioner Patton said the crash is devastating for the close-knit community in Mildura and the police force, especially as it nears the anniversary of the crash that killed four officers in Melbourne.
“No one expects to go to work and not come home,” he said.
“This is an absolute tragedy for the police officers involved, for the family and friends of those police officers.
“It is a tragedy and absolutely heartbreaking for the family and friends of the civilian driver involved.
“You come at a loss of words to describe this.”
It is expected Kulkyne Way will be closed today while detectives process the scene.
Anyone who saw the crash, or who has dashcam footage, is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.