AN horrific head-on crash on the Pacific Highway south of Ballina early on Saturday morning tragically claimed the lives of a couple in their 50s.
Police are yet to identify the couple, who perished when they struck an oncoming vehicle while travelling south and their car burst into flames.
The crash occurred on a leafy bend of the highway at Coolgardie, about 5km south of Ballina and just north of Wardell.
Emergency services were called to the crash about 6.20am to find a devastating scene in which one car was on fire, with another split in two pieces several metres apart.
The 33-year-old driver of the second car was thrown from his vehicle and found by emergency services lying on the southbound lane.
He is believed to be from Lennox Head.
He was airlifted by the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter to the Gold Coast Hospital in a serious condition with severe leg and chest injuries and serious head trauma.
Doctors spent most of Saturday operating on the man who by the end of the day was listed as in a serious but stable condition.
Emergency services including police rescue, local RFS crews, and the major crash investigation unit spent most of the day at the crash scene, with the Pacific Highway closed in both directions until about 5pm. Police investigators believe speed was a factor in the crash.
The double fatality comes just days after the NSW Planning Department announced it had approved plans for the Ballina to Woolgoolga stretch of the Pacific Highway to be upgraded to a separate dual lane highway.
A final stamp of approval for the upgrade is required from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.