A 17-year-old who was found dead on the side of a road this morning had spent the night at a good friend's birthday party.
Police are now investigating what happened to the teenager, who was found by a member of the public, and whether a car was involved in her death.
The mother of the birthday girl told the Herald the teen had had a nice evening at the party, spending time with her friends and cousins. Her father was also at the party and spent most of the night there "waiting for her".
"She was all good. She's a quiet girl, always smiling. She wasn't drinking, or falling around like that.
She was just her usual self."
The teen is from a very tight-knit family and was in Year 13 at Te Kuiti College.
A passerby found the girl lying on the grass on State Highway 3, just north of the King Country township. It was 6.30am and she was dead.
Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Patterson said debris indicated that a vehicle was involved, and the teen had "collided" with it.
Last night, police were still trying to identify the vehicle.
Resident Lauren Zanders said she had heard a car whizzing past her property early in the morning.
"I got woken up some time in the wee hours of the morning by a car doing a burn-out down the road. The only thing I heard apart from that was a crowd of people saying 'chug, chug' at a party down the road.
"I'm just so sad that someone's baby was taken away. It is just heartbreaking."
Mr Patterson said a post-mortem examination would take place in Auckland tomorrow.
Police officers spent part of the day knocking on doors within a cordon covering a large section of SH3, which runs through the centre of Otorohanga. A blue tent had been erected inside the cordon and yellow numbered markers dotted the road.
Mr Patterson said the police wanted to hear from anyone with information.
"We expect that as our investigation progresses, we will find out more about how she came to be there and the circumstances of her death. This is a tragedy and our thoughts are with her family at this time."
Otorohanga District Mayor Max Baxter called for the community to stick together and support one another.
"This is a very close community and we've got a wonderful group of young people in this town."
- additional reporting: Cherie Howie