Rowan Baxter died alongside his children Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey in a quiet suburban street in Brisbane’s east this morning.
His wife Hannah remains in a critical condition in hospital with “significant burns”, police said.
Mr Baxter’s Facebook profile is littered with pictures of his three children, all aged under 10, along with comments he “loves them to the moon and back” and “daddy misses you all”.
A member of the New Zealand Warriors NRL squad in the mid-2000s, Mr Baxter had been working at a Brisbane fitness centre with his wife who was a trampolining champion.
Neighbours reported hearing multiple explosions before seeing the car engulfed in flames in Raven Street at Camp Hill about 8.30am.
A man who tried to help at the scene has also been taken to hospital with facial burns.
Police will not comment on how the fire started.
“How the fire actually occurred has not been ascertained at the moment, so for us to call it a murder-suicide or a tragic accident, it’s inappropriate at this stage,” Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said.
“I’ve seen some horrific scenes – this is up there with some of the best of them.
“It’s a terrible thing to be presented with.”
Paramedic Adrian Tong said seven vehicles with first-responders and doctors were sent to the scene.
The first crews to arrive were confronted with dead people and the car on fire, he said, but the inferno was put out shortly after.
He said the survivors immediately became the priority for paramedics.
Neighbour Murray Campbell said he heard a number of loud bangs.
“It sounded very much like a gas cylinder explosion,” he told AAP.
He said he called triple zero, and did not see anyone run from the car, which was engulfed in flames.
“It was just horrible, multiple explosions, very loud,” he said. Police Minister Mark Ryan described the incident as “horrific”.
The car has been wrapped in orange plastic but the vehicle appears to have been severely damaged by the fire.
A major crime scene has been established with police condoning off a large part of the street and several side streets.
The family was not involved in any Family Court or Federal Court proceedings.
Police say they will provide an update later today.