A collision that killed three people at Muswellbrook and left a man fighting for his life in hospital will send ripples through the community, the police officer in charge in the small mining town says.
The tragic crash on Sunday night was part of a devastating day on Hunter roads, coming only a few hours after an 18-year-old woman was killed when a vehicle rolled into the Allyn River, about 50km east of the scene of the triple-fatal.
The head-on crash a few kilometres from Muswellbrook's town centre claimed the lives of a 34-year-old male ute driver as well as 44-year-old Robert Baker, who was driving two passengers home in a Kia Carnival as part of his local ride-share business.
Tracey Strachan, 62, died at the scene. Her 61-year-old husband, Brad, was taken to hospital with what police described as "life threatening injuries".
He remained in a critical condition on Monday.
Police said all four people involved in the crash at Bengalla Road were locals of the Muswellbrook area.
"As the news spreads, people will be devastated," NSW Police Chief Inspector Guy Guiana, the officer-in-charge at Muswellbrook, told reporters on Monday.
"The number of people killed means there is a lot of people who knew them and that will have a significant impact on everybody."
The ute and Kia were travelling in opposite directions on the rural road at about 9.15pm when the crash took place.
Police are investigating what might have happened in the lead-up to the incident, but Chief Inspector Guiana said the road - with one lane in each direction - was well maintained and conditions were warm and dry on Sunday night.
Investigators had not yet been able to speak with the lone survivor of the crash as of Monday afternoon.
"[It is] always tragic when you have a local person killed in an accident, of course when there is this many people involved it sends ripples right through the community," Chief Inspector Guiana said.
"The most dangerous thing any of us do all day is get in a car and drive down the road - it's not just about [the driver's] own ability, you've got to look out for other drivers on the road.
"You never know what's going to happen in front of you."
Family and friends of Mr Baker posted tributes on his social media page on Monday.
The Muswellbrook crash took place less than 12 hours after an 18-year-old passenger in a Toyota Landcruiser died when the vehicle rolled down an embankment into the river at Upper Allyn.
Emergency crews - police, State Emergency Service, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Fire and Rescue NSW - were called to the scene just after 11am.
Witnesses freed Tiarni Simpson from the vehicle and began CPR before paramedics arrived, but she died at the scene.
Police said the driver - an 18-year-old woman who suffered chest injuries - freed herself from the wreck and was winched to safety. She was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital in a stable condition.
Police will prepare a report for the Coroner over the teenager's death.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help Ms Simpson's family with the cost of her funeral.
The page organiser described Ms Simpson as "fun, outgoing and full of life" with a contagious smile.
The four deaths on Sunday took the state's road toll since the beginning of this year to 14 - up from 10 deaths in the first 17 days of 2020, according to the NSW government's Centre for Road Safety.