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Families holidaying together identified as Daylesford crash victims

Beer garden tragedy

Five people who lost their lives when a car ploughed into the Daylesford pub’s beer garden have been identified as two families holidaying together over Victoria’s long weekend.

News Corp named three of the victims as Point Cook lawyer Pratibha Sharma, 44, her daughter Anvi, 9, and partner Jatin Chugh, 30.

The other two deceased have been named by The Indian Sun as Vivek Bhatia, 38, from Tarneit, and his eldest son Vihaan, aged 11.

Vivek’s wife Ruchi Bhatia, 36, is reportedly fighting for life in the intensive care unit of Royal Melbourne Hospital and their six-year-old son Abeer remains stable.

The families were said to have been friends for about a decade and were spending the long weekend together when they were wiped out in the terrible tragedy.

The Herald Sun reports a third group of diners, including a 43-year-old Kyneton woman, a 38-year-old Cockatoo man and an 11-month-old boy were all injured.

Three families were sitting in the Royal Daylesford Hotel’s roadside beer garden when a BMW SUV mounted the kerb and slammed into patrons about 6pm on Sunday.

Pratibha Sharma, 44, daughter Anvi, 9, and partner Jatin Chugh, 30. Photo: Facebook

The 66-year-old driver remains in hospital for shock and non-life threatening injuries and is expected to be interviewed by police on Tuesday.

He did not have alcohol in his system and was not known to police.

Friends of Pratibha Sharma expressed their absolute shock and sorrow on Facebook, describing Sharma as a vivacious community-minded woman who deeply loved her daughter.

Sharma ran for state parliament in 2018 and later put her hand up to run for Wyndham City Council.

During the pandemic, the committed community volunteer delivered food packages to people in home quarantine.

In June this year she was admitted as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of Victoria and posted a photo alongside her daughter.

Sharma often shared her immense love of her child who she called her biggest motivation in life.

Former Victorian MP Kaushaliya Vaghela said Sharma was well known in the Indian diaspora community for her “vivacious personality and volunteering work”.

“Melbourne is extremely poorer without the smiling and vibrant person like Pratibha, who is gone too soon,” posted Vaghela.

“Entire Indian community in Victoria is saddened and shocked by this devastating news.”

Friend Sangeeta Sharma Bains wrote: “So sad, no words can express the sadness we feel. Yesterday you were sending me condolences and asking me to be strong and today you’re not here.”

Vivek Bhatia and eldest son Vihaan, 11, were killed while his wife Ruchi Bhatia and younger son Abeer, 6, remain in hospital. Photo: Facebook

A friend of Vivek Bhatia, who was killed with son Vihaan, said the young boy was adored by his parents.

“He was really cheeky,” friend Bhupinder Bhuller told The Herald Sun.

“Life can be tragic. We never know when our time is up.”

She said Vivek was a “good person and a really good father”.

“I am with his parents now and it’s such a big loss.”

Daylesford vigil

More than 200 community members gathered at a vigil at Daylesford’s Victoria Park on Monday night, including Victorian health minister Mary-Anne Thomas and federal infrastructure minister Catherine King.

The emotional crowd was urged to reach out to support services if they were struggling.

The vigil was moved from the local community centre to the park to accommodate a large turnout.

Devastated mourners streamed through the area to lay flowers, teddy bears and leave messages of condolences at the site of the accident.

“(We) are broken. Rest in peace,” one message read.

Mourners gather for a vigil at Victoria Park in Daylesford on Monday. Photo: AAP

Federal infrastructure minister Catherine King was among those paying their respects.

A counselling service has been set up at the community health centre for locals struggling to cope with the tragedy.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton described the crash as an “absolute tragedy” and “one of the most confronting scenes that experienced officers have been to”.

“Some may never lose that scene, it may haunt them forever,” he said.

Politicians including Premier Jacinta Allan, Opposition Leader John Pesutto and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked those who went to the victims’ aid and offered their condolences to those impacted.

Topics: Daylesford
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