Two men who tried to help a dying five-year-old boy at a horrific car crash are struggling to come to terms with what they saw that day.

Fitchett Hoggard truck drivers, David Henderson and Harry Murdoch, had just left their Taupo depot on Tuesday afternoon when they came across the carnage as they travelled north on State Highway 1.

The two vehicle pile-up claimed four lives and left eight others battling a raft of injuries.

Police today released the names of the four people who died in the horrific crash.

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They were Mele Ilisapi Oliveti, 44, a Tongan national residing in Palmerston North, Helena Adele Paul, 56, of Kaikohe, Leighton Phillip Ahuriri, 60, a New Zealander residing in Western Australia, and Hone Te Ahurei Hawkins-Kanuta, 5, of Kaikohe.

A 10-month-old boy is in Starship Hospital. The baby had today been moved to a ward and was in a stable condition.

David Henderson and Harry Murdoch smashed the rear window of the vehicle, on the left, to rescue the 10-month-old baby. Photo / John van de Ven
David Henderson and Harry Murdoch smashed the rear window of the vehicle, on the left, to rescue the 10-month-old baby. Photo / John van de Ven

Henderson, a grandfather of five, said the crash would "haunt me forever".

He and his colleague, Murdoch, of Reporoa, who were both driving NZ Couriers trucks, were travelling in convoy before coming to a stop and racing to help those caught up in the carnage.

A policeman walks truck driver David Henderson out of the crash scene on SH1. Photo / Philips Search and Rescue Trust.
A policeman walks truck driver David Henderson out of the crash scene on SH1. Photo / Philips Search and Rescue Trust.

By then, the injured occupants who were able to get out of the people mover Tuivai had been travelling in, were out and sitting on an embankment.

After quickly checking on the trapped driver of that vehicle, they raced over to the slightly smaller black vehicle which had come to rest on the shoulder of the road.

They knew straight away the female driver had died so they quickly tried to help the passenger who was losing a lot of blood.

"We went straight around to the passenger side and what I saw there, that's where we tried to help the person there."

Murdoch tried to help stem his injury and Henderson was at his side when the man, 60, died.

"That person passed away, while I was standing there, and then I said 'has anyone checked the back of the car?' and they said 'no' so the guy standing beside me peered through [window], because it had tinted windows, and that's where the little boy was ... he still had his belt on."

He labelled Murdoch "the superhero" as he was able to keep himself composed throughout the chaotic and heart wrenching scenes.

"Harry jumped through the side window and felt [the boy's] pulse and it was real weak and then he passed away in front of us."

They then checked the back of the car and noticed the baby still in his capsule.

Taupo man David Henderson was driving the NZ Couriers truck when he came across the scene, just minutes after it occurred. Photo / Philips Search and Rescue Trust
Taupo man David Henderson was driving the NZ Couriers truck when he came across the scene, just minutes after it occurred. Photo / Philips Search and Rescue Trust

Murdoch passed the baby through the broken window to Henderson and another bystander before covering him with a blanket. A woman came over shortly afterwards and was given him to look after until emergency services arrived.

Henderson said he then went to check on the driver of the people mover who was still trapped. Then he heard wailing and realised that Tuivai had died.

"When I walked around [the car] I could see the smoke coming out from underneath and saw some flames coming out from under the front."

Another truck driver retrieved a fire extinguisher to put out the flames which were inching closer to leaked petrol all over the road.

Henderson said it was a frantic 15 or so minutes before emergency services arrived and a period that he will never forget.

"I've come across accidents before you know, that's my life, I've seen dead people at accidents but when we got there there were still three people alive and we watched them die and it wasn't nice. I'm going to a counsellor today because I'm still not right.

"What we saw in that car ... it will haunt me forever."

Henderson said he and Murdoch also wanted to let the boy's parents know that, as they were with their son when he died, he wasn't in any pain.

"Harry would like her to know that he was peaceful, he looked as though he was asleep when he passed and he just looked so peaceful. When Harry put a little cover on him, that got me.

"Even the baby looked peaceful, he was probably unconscious. But when he got in the chopper I could see him kicking around and thought that was a good sign."

Henderson said he spoke out to clarify reports that the 10-month-old baby was Tuivai's.

"There's just conflicting stories and the little baby definitely came out of the black car with the three deceased."

He praised the work of police and other emergency service crews at the scene who worked methodically at the scene.

"I tip my hat to them, I really do. They do great work."

Police today confirmed the 10-month-old was travelling with the couple and the five-year-old boy, and not Tuivai.