The two men, one who had been driving an SUV and the other driving a semi-trailer carrying logs, were killed when they were struck by a B-double on the Pacific Highway south of Ballina on Monday night.
NSW Police said the drivers sustained multiple injuries and died at the scene.
“While the men are still to be formally identified, it’s believed the SUV driver is a Grafton man aged in his 30s, while the driver of the semi-trailer is from Smiths Lake, aged in his 40s,” police said in a statement today.
The SUV driver has since been identified by family as NSW father Stephen Edwards.
“Rest In Peace to a devoted father, son, brother and friend,” his father, Noel Edwards, said on Facebook overnight.
“We love and miss you forever son.”
His mother, Heather Edwards, added: “Love u my boy always”.
The victim’s brother, Wayne Edwards, commented: “Wish it wasn’t real Stephen but I do love you, never said it enough. I will always remember you miss you mate love you.”
Others sent their condolences over the loss of a “true friend” and “best mate” with “a massive heart”.
Detective Chief Inspector Bill McKenna said Mr Edwards’ partner was sitting in the vehicle and witnessed the crash.
He told reporters on Tuesday morning the scene “would best be described as horrific”.
Another driver who arrived at the scene moments later told The Daily Telegraph there was a car parked in the middle of the road with the hazard lights on, “and a woman was inside crying hysterically”.
Insp McKenna said the two vehicles had travelled through the township of Woodburn but about five kilometres south, around 8pm, they came to a halt and the two men got out of their vehicles.
“Those vehicles have stopped, encroaching into the northbound lane, and at this location there’s been an altercation between the driver of the SUV and the prime mover,” he said.
“At the same time, we’ve had a northbound B-double, he’s been travelling north on the Pacific Highway.
“He’s seen the stationary vehicles but unfortunately hasn’t seen the two males fighting on the northbound lane. He’s collided with both of those persons, causing fatal injuries.”
Insp McKenna urged drivers not to take such incidents into their own hands, noting it was the third fatality in the region since Wednesday and “each incident was preventable”.
“If you think a vehicle is tailgating you, just pull over and contact police,” he told ABC North Coast on Tuesday.
The disagreement between the two men has been described by police as a “minor altercation” and “minor road rage incident”.
“There is nothing that should cause you to get that angry and that upset that you would have an altercation with another person and you lose your life,” Insp McKenna told the Northern Star.
“If you are concerned about the behaviour of other drivers, pull over and call police. Don’t let it lead to an altercation. There is nothing worse than losing your life over a very minor matter.”
The driver of the B-double is a 35-year-old man from Albury.
He was taken to Ballina Hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing.
The highway was closed between Woodburn and New Italy for almost nine hours while investigators examined the crime scene.
WOODBURN: The Pacific Hwy has re-opened around 5km south of Woodburn, after an earlier serious crash. Diversions have been lifted and there are no current delays. Crews are still on site so continue to drive with caution.
— Live Traffic NSW (@LiveTrafficNSW) May 11, 2020