TWO truck drivers miraculously survived a fiery head-on collision at Beaufort yesterday morning.
A trail of debris and the charred remains of a B-double truck were all that remained after the crash, which occurred just after 3am.
One of the trucks, an empty livestock carrier, was destroyed by fire.
The impact of the crash smashed the other into pieces, with the cabin, trailers and motor of the truck strewn along the side of the Western Highway.
It is believed it jack-knifed when it rounded a bend as it entered Beaufort on the western side, with the livestock carrier unable to avoid the collision.
Beaufort Fire Brigade captain Colin Gerrard was the first emergency worker on the scene and said the truck was engulfed by flames when he arrived.
He said the driver of the semi-trailer that jack-knifed, a 74-year-old Broadmeadows man, was lying on the ground when he arrived on the scene about 3.30am.
The driver was transferred from the Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital to The Alfred hospital yesterday afternoon in a critical condition.
The other driver, aged in his 30s, remained in Ballarat in a serious but stable condition.
Mr Gerrard said that when he arrived the truck could hardly be seen through the flames, which had reached more than five metres in the air.
“The other truck was well involved by the time we arrived,” said Mr Gerrard.
The Western Freeway remained closed for most of the day, while cranes worked to clear the carnage and removed the twisted metal.
The livestock truck had to be loaded onto another truck as crews worked to carefully remove the other trailers from the wreckage, careful not to disrupt the chemicals that were being hauled.
There were was no livestock on the truck, but at least three dogs that were on board died in the collision.
Mr Gerrard said it was one of the biggest crashes he had seen in the Beaufort area and that it was remarkable neither of the drivers were killed.
“You look at the damage and have to think they were lucky,” he said. “It’s one of the more serious accidents I’ve seen out here.”
The highway was closed until 4pm with traffic diverted from the Sunraysia Highway exit at Mitchell Park through to Ararat.
VicRoads will monitor the condition of the road over the coming days to ensure it is cleared of any structural damage, with traffic slowed to 40km/h last night.
CFA crews from Beaufort, Raglan and Cross Roads attended the crash.