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‘Unbearable loss’: Community’s grief after pub crash

Dual investigations by police and a coroner are underway into a crash outside a Daylesford pub that killed five people, including two children.

Dual investigations by police and a coroner are underway into a crash outside a Daylesford pub that killed five people, including two children. Photo: Facebook

A community volunteer who delivered food parcels to people in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic and her family are among those killed in the Victorian beer garden crash.

Migration agent Pratibha Sharma, 44, her nine-year-old daughter Anvi and partner Jatin Chugh, 30, were sitting outside the Royal Daylesford Hotel when a BMW SUV mounted the kerb and hit patrons about 6pm on Sunday.

The Point Cook woman volunteered with Australian Sikh Support from 2020 to help deliver food boxes to people quarantining and students facing hardship during the pandemic and is being remembered as a selfless and community-oriented.

“Pratibha and her partner and daughter usually came up in the warehouse with their own car and in the warehouse they were helping us packaging the food and sorting the boxes,” Gurjit Singh from Australian Sikh Support told AAP.

Anvi would play with other children in the warehouse while her parents worked, he said.

Ms Sharma had run for state parliament and local council and was admitted as a lawyer in June, a moment she celebrated on Facebook.

“I am proud and humble to announce that with the blessings of my family and friends today I admitted as a Lawyer in Supreme Court Of Victoria,” Ms Sharma wrote.

“I will like to thank you everyone for this achievement … specially my daughter ANVI who is always been the biggest motivation for me.”

Mr Singh said Ms Sharma would go out of her way to help students who came to her as a migration lawyer.

“Sometimes, she don’t charge their services or something because of their financial hardship,” Mr Singh said.

The community was supporting Ms Sharma’s brother and parents following the crash, he said.

A 38-year-old Tarneit man, named in media outlets as Vivek Bhatia, and his 11-year-old son were also killed, while his 36-year-old wife Ruchi Bhatia and six-year-old son were hospitalised.

A friend of Ms Bhatia has started a fundraiser to rally the community behind the family following the tragedy.

“Two beautiful families were torn apart,” organiser Amandeep Kaur said on the fundraising page.

“It will be a long way to recovery and to get over this unbearable loss.”

The money raised will go towards the Ms Bhatia and her surviving son to help in their recovery and future.

“The Bhatia family only recently bought their house after getting permanent residency and were a happy family,”  Ms Kaur wrote.

“God had other plans though!”

An 11-month-old boy was injured and is in a stable condition at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

The baby’s mother was not injured, but a 43-year-old Kyneton woman and a 38-year-old Cockatoo man with them were and are in Royal Melbourne Hospital.

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.

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.

Devastated mourners laid flowers, teddy bears and left messages of condolences at the accident site.

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

A counselling service has been set up at the community health centre for anyone 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.

– AAP

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