The force of the impact between a car and a logging truck which crashed, killing a tourist near Matamata, was so intense the truck and trailer unit briefly became airborne before it shunted the small hatchback 20m off the road and into a fence.
Laurence Dalziel, mechanic at Chookys Auto, was helping a customer unhook a boat off the back of his ute when he heard an almighty bang outside the premises at the intersection of State Highway 29 and Hopkins Rd this morning.
"I looked up and sure enough there's an accident there, there was a big cloud of smoke and steam ... by the time I realised what was happening the car was resting in the fence. On impact I noticed the back of the truck actually came up between the truck and trailer."
The woman was one of three tourists, including a woman in her 50s, in the vehicle which appeared to have turned right into the path of the logging truck at about 9.30am.
The turn-off is the main route to Hobbiton Movie Set and Mr Dalziel and his colleagues say it has been just a matter of time before someone was killed at the intersection. They have witnessed numerous near misses and fender-benders over the years.
When the Herald arrived at the scene, debris, including sunglasses and pieces of the car which broke off on impact. lay strewn across the road.
The occupants' luggage, including a backpack and suitcase, was recovered by police before the car was taken away by tow truck.
Waikato police Senior Sergeant Gill Meadows says the silver Hyundai hatchback was travelling towards Cambridge on SH29 when it appeared to have turned in front of the truck.
The passenger side of the car bore the full brunt of the truck's impact, she said.
"Early indications are that the vehicle has turned into the oncoming path of the truck and as a result one person is dead and two are seriously injured and have been taken to hospital by the rescue helicopter," she said.
She confirmed the dead woman and her two passengers were foreign nationals.
Two other critically injured occupants were airlifted to Waikato Hospital by the Westpac Waikato Rescue Helicopter and the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
The truck driver was also hospitalised with moderate injuries, she says.
The logging truck eventually came to a stop about 200m down the road.
Mr Dalziel says after realising what had happened, he ran into the workshop for a fire extinguisher while the customer he was with ran to the car.
However, it was obvious once they reached the scene that there was nothing they could do for the passenger.
"The customer shook their head and I thought 'right, I don't need to go any further'. The whole side of that car was opened up , the front left passenger, you could see the passenger in there ... it was pretty horrible."
He believes there's not enough signage warning tourists that Hobbiton is up ahead.
"Inattention and the signage. There's not enough warning. It's a major tourist attraction and the signage is terrible by the time they get to the intersection they're like, 'oh s***', turn here'."
Meanwhile, at least one person has been seriously injured after a car rolled 5km north of Rotorua at 3.45pm today.
Police and ambulance are at the scene near Tarukenga Rd.
A reporter at the scene said it appears a people mover-type vehicle had gone into a bank and rolled and was now sitting in a ditch.
Both lanes are still open but police have slowed traffic.
Regarding signage, NZ Transport Agency's Hamilton highways manager, Kaye Clark, says the signs that are on the stretch of highway comply with their standard however Agency staff will take another look at the area.
As the matter was an active police investigation she couldn't comment any further.
However, she confirmed that in the previous five years (2011-2015) there have been three crashes recorded at this intersection. Two of the crashes were minor and one crash resulted in serious injuries.
Failure to give way was a contributing factor in all three of these crashes. There have been no fatal crashes recorded during this period, she said.