A woman died in a head-on smash between people-mover and an articulated truck in Ormond township, near Gisborne, early this morning.
Police, the fire service and St John ambulance were called to the accident site on State Highway 2 at 12.40am.
"The accident happened about 200 metres north of the Ormond Tavern on a straight stretch of road," a fire service spokesman said.
The 32-year-old Gisborne woman, the only occupant in the people mover, was pronounced dead at the scene by a St John paramedic.
Police serious crash investigators were investigating the accident.
"No further details are being released on her identity at this stage, as we are still in the process of informing all her next-of-kin."
The highway was closed for more than three hours and diversions were put in place.
When emergency services arrived, the woman's vehicle was on one side of the highway and the truck, tipped on its side, was on the other.
The truck driver escaped injury.
"He was shaking and in mild shock but he was otherwise OK," the fire spokesman said.
The truck driver was checked over by St John staff.
Nearby resident Greyson Mauheni was awake in bed when the accident occurred.
"It happened pretty much right outside my bedroom window," he said.
"I heard a big bang and looked out to see the truck had slid along the road on its side.
"I ran over to it to check on the driver. He was in a bit of shock but otherwise was OK," Mr Mauheni said.
Another person checked on the other vehicle.
"There was a strong smell of petrol and we decided not to go too close. We were concerned it could catch fire but it didn't," Mr Mauheni said.
"The sight of it was quite shocking, knowing there was a person inside."
The refrigerated truck was carrying a load of empty milk crates from Gisborne to Te Puke. The load remained secure in the vehicle in the rollover.
The front of the people-mover was extensively damaged.
The woman's body remained in her vehicle for about three hours, until police had completed their scene examination.
Firemen then removed the woman from the wreckage.
"We had to cut away one side of the vehicle and remove the passenger seat to get her out."
Police said a post-mortem examination would be conducted as part of the inquiry into the crash.