“We believe she was in the process of heading home when this tragic event has taken place,” he said.
The senior officer said the crash was particularly confronting and witnessed by many people. He urged those who might have seen what happened to contact their nearest police stations where they could be put in touch with counselling services.
He said many people were in the area at the time and had tried to help.
“It would have been a very tragic event for people to have witnessed. Unfortunately, there was nothing anybody was able to do … It happened very quickly; the vehicle was engulfed in flames very quickly as well,” he said.
“We haven’t been able to establish what it was that made her lose control of that vehicle. Whether there was some distraction in the car at the time or something else that was distracting her, we haven’t established that. We hope maybe we’ll get some answers as our investigation unfolds.”
Senior Sergeant Clanchy said investigators had since spoken to the woman’s partner after tracking him down at his workplace. “He’s distraught as you’d expect in the circumstances.”
Witnesses told Nine News they saw the vehicle travelling along Flemington Road when the driver appeared to lose control, fishtail and slam into the pole.
Seconds later, they said, the vehicle burst into flames.
Video footage of the car fire shows those nearby running to help before being pushed back by flames as black plumes of smoke filled the air.
Investigators from the major collision investigation unit are expected to be at the scene for much of the evening, with nearby roads to remain closed and tram lines diverted for some time.
The Department of Transport said this included the closure of Flemington Road at Parkville, which had been closed in both directions between Harker and Grattan streets.
“Police are directing traffic. Drivers should use Royal Parade, Curzon Street or Swanston Street as alternatives, allowing extra time through the area,” the department said.
“Signalling engineers are adjusting traffic lights to help minimise delays.”
There are also disruptions to route 58 and 59 trams along Flemington Road.
Anyone who witnessed the incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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