A P-plater (Provisional driver's licence-holder), driving a Honda convertible, crashed into the van in Sydney Tuesday. It was described as a street drag race gone horribly wrong. Police are also trying to determine whether it is also a case of drunken driving.
Drag racing is a competition in which vehicles compete to be the first to cross a set finish line, usually from a dead stop, and in a straight line.
A witness said the car and a motorcycle accelerated from an intersection on the Hume Highway about 7.45pm.
About 500m along the road, the P-plater apparently lost control of his car, crossing a barrier and smashing head-on with Toyota Hiace, killing its driver at Warwick Farm, in the city's southwest.
Investigators are appealing for more witnesses to the collision and have issued a strict warning to people seeking an adrenalin rush behind the wheel.
"Don't endanger innocent lives, which is what has happened on this occasion, because next time it might be my family, it might be your family," crash investigation unit commander Peter Jenkins said in Sydney today.
The 24-year-old driver of the Honda was rushed by ambulance to Liverpool Hospital where he underwent surgery for serious injuries.
A 17-year-old girl, who is believed to be sitting in the front passenger seat of the van, was also taken to Liverpool Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries.
Senior Sergeant Jenkins said investigators had yet to interview the girl and he was unable to confirm media reports that she may actually have been a passenger in the Honda and not in the van.
Police have not confirmed whether it was a street racing incident but the witness has prompted officers to consider this as a possible cause of the crash.
Investigators want to speak with the motorcyclist and are awaiting toxicology reports to determine if alcohol was a factor, The Australian newspaper reported.
"Any fatal crash is a tragedy in its own right, but where we have motorists (possibly street racing) ... it's more deliberate than anything," Senior Sergeant Jenkins said.
"People who may want to take the risk and get the adrenalin rush, go pay your fee and go out to Eastern Creek (race circuit) and do it."
The family of the dead man are devastated, police say.
They have spoken to his family who are still in shock after hearing the news.
"Obviously they are devastated," Snr Sgt Jenkins said.
"We haven't spoken to them this morning because we allowed them a little bit of time to come to grips with it."