Four children have been killed in Sydney's west after allegedly being hit by an out-of-control 4WD while riding their bikes, with shattered emergency services describing scenes of "carnage" and "chaos".
The children, all under the age of 12, were riding their bikes along Bettington Road in Oatlands, near Parramatta, at about 8pm on Saturday when a Mitsubishi 4WD hit them just outside the Oatlands Golf Club.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the victims, believed to be from the Maronite Christian community, are three siblings and one family friend.
"Tonight before you sleep we ask that you remember in your prayers a young Maronite family from our Parish who has been devastatingly affected by a serious accident," said a post on the Living Maronite Facebook page. "We keep them all in our prayers."
Three other children were taken to hospital. Two had non-life-threatening injuries and a third was initially feared to have a critical head injury but is now in a stable condition.
The 29-year-old male driver, who returned a positive roadside breath test, has been taken to Westmead Hospital for mandatory blood and urine tests. His passenger, a 24-year-old male, is being interviewed by police.
"It's a tragic scene and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those that have been touched by this incident," NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Jason Joyce told reporters at the scene.
"The investigation is being currently undertaken by the Crash Investigation Unit. They will process the scene tonight and continue the investigation tomorrow."
Joyce said the families were "obviously very distraught".
"In the circumstances we can't provide much information to them at this stage so that's difficult for them, but we're trying to give them as much support as we can," he said. "A number of family members are at the hospital and we're trying to help them through this really difficult time."
NSW Police said in an earlier statement, "Four children have been killed and a fifth is in a critical condition following a pedestrian crash in Sydney's northwest today.
"Just before 8pm, emergency services were called to Bettington Road, Oatlands, near Parramatta, following reports multiple people had been struck by a vehicle. Police have been told children were riding bicycles when they were struck by a 4WD.
"Four children died at the scene and are yet to be formally identified. A fifth child was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to The Children's Hospital at Westmead in a critical condition.
"The driver of the 4WD was subjected to a roadside breath test and returned a positive result. He was arrested and taken to Castle Hill Police Station for a breath analysis.
"Officers from The Hills Police Area Command have established a crime scene, which will be examined by specialist police from the Metropolitan Crash Investigation Unit. An investigation has commenced into the circumstances surrounding the crash. Inquiries continue."
A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman earlier told The Daily Telegraph paramedics treated seven patients but confirmed four had died, while a 10-year-old boy had sustained a critical head injury.
"A 10-year-old female has been transported to The Children's Hospital at Westmead with pain to her arm and lacerations to head," she said. "A 13-year-old female who also went to The Children's Hospital at Westmead with shoulder and hand pain and abrasions to legs."
Speaking to reporters, NSW Ambulance Superintendent Andrew McAlpine said the critical patient had since stabilised. "It was thought they were quite unwell but it subsequently seems they are in a stable condition," he said.
McAlpine said approximately 18 paramedics and a number of doctors attended after receiving reports of "a number of pedestrians hit by a vehicle".
"When the first crews arrived on scene they were confronted with carnage," he said.
"Very, very difficult scene with obviously a lot of chaos. It's incredibly hard for all the emergency services, notwithstanding the loss the families have sustained. It's very, very difficult for police, fire rescue, paramedics to be confronted with such chaos and such carnage."
He said NSW Ambulance had "a number of support systems we've put in place this evening and that'll be ongoing through the coming week" to ensure staff were being looked after.