The motorist was found trapped upside down in the wreckage of a Porsche and was pronounced dead by an ambulance crew at the scene. The 30-year-old man from Melbourne was reportedly left in the car for up to an hour as police began their investigation.

It was only when State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers were preparing to cut the driver free from the mangled sports car that they became concerned the man was still alive. They found he had a weak pulse and appeared to be twitching but were assured by paramedics that movement by a corpse is not unusual. SES spokesman Lachlan Quick said: "They mentioned it to the ambulance guys, who said that it [movement] can be attributed to this sort of effect when there's a spinal injury. "It was raised and addressed and discussed and then put to one side, and they went about their business."

Tow-truck driver Trevor Oliver told the Australian Associated Press: "The SES got the driver out of the car, wrapped him in a tarp and sat him on the side of the road, and for about 40 minutes we sat there watching his feet move. "It was only when the coroner's representative turned up to pick up the body, they noticed that something was odd and (discovered) he still had a very weak pulse."

The paramedics were called back to the scene and the motorist was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital where he remains in critical condition. Ambulance Victoria said an investigation has been launched into the incident. The ambulance crew involved are said to be traumatised by what happened. "These are two very experienced paramedics but obviously this has been an error and we will work with them through that," said spokesman Simon Thomson.

Ambulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie said he had spoken to both paramedics and neither was able to detect a pulse. "These sorts of things happen very rarely. It's unfortunate but... I think they did everything that they possibly could at that particular time," he said.

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