Victoria's ambulance service is investigating how a car crash victim came to be declared dead at the scene by paramedics, only to be found alive an hour later as he was being loaded into the coroner's van.

The 30-year-old man, who is now in the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a critical condition, was trapped upside-down in the wreckage of his Porsche for several hours after colliding with a four-wheel-drive vehicle early on Sunday in Bacchus Marsh, northwest of Melbourne.

Three ambulances arrived, and two paramedics who treated him were unable to detect a pulse or breathing.

The Melbourne man was declared dead, and was left in the car while police began examining the crashsite.

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State Emergency Service volunteers then removed him from the wreckage and laid him by the side of the road, covering him in a black tarpaulin.

It was only when the coroner's van arrived and the emergency crews picked him up that they discovered he was warm and had a very weak pulse.

An ambulance returned to the scene, and took the man to hospital.

Ambulance Victoria said it had launched an investigation, but added that both paramedics were very experienced.

One had been doing the job for more than 15 years, and trained other paramedics.

They were said to be devastated about what had happened.

Trevor Oliver, a tow-truck driver who was called to the scene, told Melbourne radio yesterday that he saw movement inside the Porsche before the driver was removed.

Then, after he was laid on the ground with the tarpaulin over him, Oliver said his limbs were twitching.

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"I didn't say anything at the time," he said. "I just thought the ambulance had pronounced him dead and that was that, really.

"It was when they went to remove the body into the coroner's van that they noticed that the driver had a very weak pulse."

Simon Thomson, a spokesman for Ambulance Victoria, said it was an "exceptionally rare" case.

The first paramedic to arrive felt a "threading pulse", he said, but when two others examined the man, "they could not find a pulse and subsequently declared the gentleman dead".

The pair had not been able to use monitoring equipment because it was difficult to reach the man, as he was trapped in the wreckage.

The emergency service controller at Bacchus Marsh, David Lambrick, said that the case was "extremely unusual".