Tragic way friends learnt of pub crash

Sonia Cheema described the heartbreaking way she found out her friends had died.  Picture: Today
A friend of the family killed in a horror pub crash has described the heartbreaking way she found out they had been killed. Picture: Today

The friend of a mother who died during the horrific Daylesford pub crash over the weekend has shared the devastating way she learnt of her death.

Pratibha Sharma, her husband Jatin Chugh, and her nine-year-old daughter Anvi were enjoying a Sunday evening meal at the Royal Hotel in Daylesford when a white BMW SUV crashed into the beer garden.

Ms Sharma’s friend of almost a decade Sonia Cheema said she first heard about the crash on social media.

“The calls started to come, I got sent a screenshot of a news article … I thought it was a prank,” she told Today on Tuesday.

“I just picked up the car and went to her house and I saw that so many people were like me, coming to check out if this news was real.”

Sonia Cheema and Pratibha Sharma Picture: Today
Sonia Cheema (left) with her friend Pratibha Sharma (right) who died alongside her husband and daughter in the Daylesford pub crash. Picture: Today
Sonia Cheema described the heartbreaking way she found out her friends had died.  Picture: Today
Ms Cheema said she first learnt of the crash on social media. Picture: Today

Vivek Bhatia, 38, and his 11-year-old son Vihaan were also killed in the crash. His wife and six-year-old son remain in a critical condition in hospital.

Ms Cheema said the families from Melbourne’s western suburbs were holidaying together in Daylesford for the Melbourne Cup long weekend when the car ploughed into the pub.

“It is a big loss for our community, a big loss to all us friends,” she said.

“It’s shocking news that was broken just on the internet. Everyone just could not believe it.”

She said the family would be remembered as the glue of their local community who “always kept (them) together” and were the first people to put their hands up to host a get-together.

Pratibha Sharma and her husband Jatin Chugh were killed during the crash. Picture: Today
Ms Sharma and her husband Jatin Chugh were killed alongside her daughter Anvi. Picture: Today

“The loss of life is unfathomable,” Ms Cheema said.

“There is no way to cope with this kind of loss when the whole family is just swept away in the seconds.”

Most of Mr Chugh’s family reside in India where they are grieving his death from afar.

More than a hundred people gathered at a park in Daylesford for an emotional vigil on Monday.

Federal MP Catherine King, state MP Mary-Anne Thomas and emergency services crew attended along with shell-shocked community members trying to process the trauma of the event.

Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives interviewed the driver, a 66-year-old Mount Macedon man, on Tuesday night while he remained in care at hospital.

“At this time the driver has not been charged, with enquiries to continue after his eventual release from care,” the police said.

“The exact circumstances are still being investigated and police would like to thank those members of the public who have already come forward, particularly those who were in the area at time.”