Seventeen-year-old Jasmine Clothier has become the latest victim of the notorious stretch of State Highway 29 snaking through the Kaimai Range.
The crash that killed the Matamata teenager on Saturday happened in wet conditions, police say.
Jasmine's Tirau-based grandfather, Henry Clothier, said the family believed she may have been on her way to Tauranga to see a movie when the crash happened. Jasmine was the front-seat passenger in a car that was in a head-on collision with another car near the summit of the Kaimai Range on State Highway 29 at 4.08pm. Firefighters tried to cut her free but the Matamata College student died at the scene.
Grandparents Henry and Ann Clothier said: "Jasmine was a precious young woman, and one of our 14 grandchildren, taken in the prime of her life. The family are devastated. She will be sadly missed by all her cousins, uncles and aunts as well as us, her grandparents. How do you get over losing a precious child?" they said. Mr Clothier senior said Jasmine's parents Wendy and Gavin Clothier and her older sister Crystal, 20, "were distraught and surrounded by loving friends and family at this time."
The drivers of both cars were not injured although one was taken to hospital and discharged. The road was closed for several hours while the police serious crash unit investigated and the scene was cleared.
Police said it was too early to speculate how the crash happened.
Hamilton police Senior Sergeant Peter van de Wetering said it was too early to say if charges would be laid and Waikato's road policing unit was still investigating. "It was a severe crash, which takes some time to do the proper due diligence in terms of the victim's car and working with what evidence there is, taking photographs of the scene and as much as we can so we can do a proper investigation."
Tauranga police have previously described SH29, along with SH2 and SH33, as standing "heads and shoulders above the rest" when it came to serious crashes in the region.
Head of Western Bay road policing Acting Senior Sergeant Mike Owen said the Kaimai Range had a steep incline and sharp corners. If drivers did not adjust their driving behaviour it was a recipe for disaster.
At the end of May Jasnoor Kaur, 9, died after a three-car collision in the Kaimai Range. The 55-year-old driver from one of the other cars died days later.
SH29 also claimed the lives of Lisa Boston, 42, in June 2013 and Graeme Voyce, 52, in August 2013.